Ortega Regime Banishes Director of “Miss Nicaragua” Pageant, her family in Nicaragua under police siege

Policemen remain inside and outside the family's house in Managua. The Miss Universe organization asks the government to guarantee the family's safety

Karen Celebertti con su esposo Martín Argüello

Karen Celebertti with her husband Martín Argüello, in a photo posted on the Miss Nicaragua franchise director's Instagram account // Photo: Taken from Instagram.

27 de noviembre 2023


The family of Karen Celebertti remains under police siege and incommunicado in their home in Managua, after the director of the Miss Nicaragua franchise, and her daughter Luciana Argüello, were banished de facto on November 23, 2023. Both were returning to the country after participating in activities tied to the recent Miss Universe contest, after the triumph of Nicaraguan contestant Sheynnis Palacios.

Several sources confirmed that Martin Arguello, who has been married to Celebertti for 26 years, was taken from his house to an unknown location on November 24, and returned to his home after several hours, without further details being known so far.

"The police were about to enter the house to look for him, but he came out and they took him away," reported the digital media Mosaico CSI, citing an anonymous source close to the case. Hours later, in another publication, the media confirmed that, after returning him to his house, "there are still policemen inside and outside" the house, where Argüello remains with his son Bernardo Argüello Celebertti and his elderly mother, who is in a delicate state of health.

The Miss Universe organization told the international news network CNN that it is aware of the situation and is "working to guarantee the safety of all the people affiliated" with the group.

"We appeal to the Government of Nicaragua to guarantee their safety if they comply with the (immigration) requirements. As of this moment, the national director, her family and previous winners are safe," the international organization told the network in a statement.

Karen Celebertti
Karen Celebertti, in a photo posted on her Instagram account.

Karen Celebertti's banishment

 Karen Celebertti, director of the “Miss Nicaragua” pageant, was banished from the country on November 23, by order of the Ortega-Murillo regime. According to the digital news site Mosaico CSI, Nicaragua’s Office of Immigration and Foreign Affairs denied entrance to Celebertti and her daughter when their plane landed in Managua. Both were returning to the country after participating in activities tied to the recent Miss Universe contest.

Karen Celebertti and her daughter were retained at the Managua airport, then forced to return to Mexico. They had traveled to Mexico after participating in the Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador, where Nicaraguan Sheynnis Palacios was crowned the contest winner.

According to the information received, Aeromexico, a Mexican-based airline, did not inform them about the government’s decision not to let them enter the country, unlike other cases where passengers refused entry and were informed via an e-mail from the airline company they were flying with. In this case, both Celebertti and her daughter only found out once they landed in Managua, and after several hours of waiting.

Karen Celebertti has directed the Miss Nicaragua franchise since 2001. She herself was a contestant in 1992, representing the northern Nicaraguan department of Matagalpa where she’s from. She went on to compete internationally for the title of Miss Hispanoamericana and remained involved in the world of beauty contests until she reached the position of directing the national pageant.

Lawyer and former judicial official Yader Morazán published on social media that "The illegal expulsion (forced removal) from her country of the Nicaraguan Karen Celebertti, director of Miss Nicaragua, who collaborated to lead Sheynnis Palacios to the crowning of Miss Universe 2023, constitutes a crime against humanity (arts. 7.1.d and 7.2.d of the Rome Statutes)."

In the last two years, hundreds of Nicaraguans have been prevented from returning to the country or banished to the United States or countries of origin (in the case of those with dual nationality). This includes activists, academics, more than 200 political prisoners, more than 80 priests, and a similar number of nuns from different congregations.

Immigration orders shifted after Miss Nicaragua’s win

Diverse accounts on news sites and social media affirm that on November 17th – the date of the Miss Universe pageant – the dictatorship had already issued an order to deny Karen Celebertti her right to return to the country. However, the order was revoked when Nicaraguan Sheynnis Palacios won the title of Miss Universe. These same sources also affirm that Miss Nicaragua herself would have been de facto banished, since they had already ordered that she not be allowed to reenter Nicaragua. Nonetheless, hours before the pageant, that order was also rescinded.

“The order was revoked and they were both notified that they were “welcome” in Nicaragua,” Mosaico CSI confirmed with a source close to the case.

Karen Celebertti directs the Silhuetas Modeling and Promotion Agency, and formed part of the delegation that accompanied Sheynnis Palacios in San Salvador. She then left for Mexico with Palacios, just before the newly crowned Miss Universe headed to New York, where she’ll be living for a year while attending to the commitments of the international franchise.

According to Mosaico CSI, Karen Celebertti’s mother, husband and son all returned to Nicaragua on November 19, while the pageant director planned to rejoin them on November 23. However, “after being retained in the Managua airport, they were returned to the Mexican territory,” the online site detailed.

Public rejoicing provokes Rosario Murillo’s fury

On November 22, Rosario Murillo, the vice president and spokeswoman for the Ortega dictatorship, lashed out against the celebrations in Nicaragua for the triumph of Sheynnis Palacios as the new Miss Universe. She described them as “fabricated provocations” of those who, according to her, “intend to turn a beautiful and well-deserved moment of pride and celebration into a destructive coup d’état mentality.” 

Following the naming of the Nicaraguan representative as Miss Universe 2023, thousands of Nicaraguans took to the country’s streets to shout cheers and wave the national flag joyfully. These demonstrations of patriotism were a relief for Nicaraguans, who have spent over five years in a de facto police state.

The celebration continued with two artists from Esteli, who started painting a mural in homage to Sheynnis Palacios on November 21. However, police officers arrived at the site and prohibited them from continuing. “That’s as far as the mural went. We had plans to finish, we kept our word, but the authorities didn’t allow us to continue,” posted one of the artists on his Instagram and TikTok accounts. Hours later, the wall where they had started the work was panted over in white, according to complaints on social networks. The prohibition of the painting of a mural dedicated to Miss Universe reminded Nicaraguans of the permanent surveillance in which they live, and that grows day by day, despite the recess for the historic conquest of a crown.

“They should stop manhandling the deserved triumphs of a pretty girl, to hide their insignificance and incapacity, and to cloud our blessed waters with their ridiculous and corny delusions,” Murillo declared.

The regime’s six-page statement does not directly name the new Miss Universe or the pageant. It presents a stark contrast with the congratulatory communication published over the weekend in which they proclaimed: “Nicaragua is celebrating with its queen!”

Tiktoker arrested for defending Sheynnis Palacios

Tiktoker Geovany López Acevedo, also known as "Tropi Gamer" or "Tropi Kong", was also detained by the police at the service of the dictatorship on Wednesday, November 22. He posted a video criticizing the mocking attitude of the presenters of the official Channel 13 in relation to the life story of Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, who won the Miss Universe crown on November 18.

Before the Miss Universe pageant, held in El Salvador, the official presenters scorned Palacios' preparation, assuring that she was not ready for the "big leagues". Also, they nicknamed her "miss buñuelos" because she has a family business selling buñuelos and nacatamales, two traditional Nicaraguan dishes. Palacios has proudly pointed out that thanks to this work she was able to pay for her studies and get ahead.

Tiktoker López Acevedo highlighted Palacios' feat of being the first Central American with the crown of the most beautiful woman on the planet. "The person who managed to win the crown of Miss Universe is a girl from the neighborhood, somoene humble who really represents us Nicaraguans as we are…", he said. Then, he questioned the pro-government presenters: "The most ironic thing is that it was achieved by someone who was so mocked in the media, by a couple of presenters that offended her to no end", he criticized.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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