Controversy: Miss Venezuela temporarily suspended due to prostitution and corruption allegations.

Controversy: Miss Venezuela temporarily suspended due to prostitution and corruption allegations.

Over the last 6 decades, Miss Venezuela has become synonymous to success in the pageant industry. ‘Walk like Miss Venezuela’ is a success mantra followed by many aspiring pageant contestants around the world. But in last few days this 65 year old institution’s reputation got completely tarnished because of various allegations against the organizers of the pageant. Due to severity of the allegations, Miss Venezuela Organisation had to shut its operations, suspend all castings and take a look inside its own nest. On February 6, 2018, Osmel Sousa announced his retirement from the position of the Preseident of Miss Venezuela. Osmel has been a part of Miss Venezuela for 37 years; hence his retirement wasn’t exactly shocking. As one insider described, Miss Venezuela has been in existence since last 65 years and for 37 years out of those Osmel has been a part of it. But what did seem suspicious was that he did not give any specific reason for the retirement.

Last week a social media storm erupted when former Miss Venezuelas accused each other in Instagram comments of receiving financial gains in exchange for sexual favours. Some alleged the use of federal resources to sponsor contestants’ plastic surgeries and evening gowns. High-profile government officials and well-known entrepreneurs aligned with the Maduro presidency were allegedly involved. The gravity of these allegation was concerning and hence Cisneros Media is launching an investigation into the prostitution claims, which allege that some participants in the Miss Venezuela pageant have offered sexual favours in exchange for cars, trips and other monetary rewards from government officials. “Due to the acts recently described through social media, anonymous blogs and by some of the people who had a close relation with the Miss Venezuela Organization, it’s been decided that there will be an internal investigation,” Cisneros Media wrote in their statement.

Controversy: Miss Venezuela temporarily suspended due to prostitution and corruption allegations.

Last week Miss Venezuela 1997 contestant Annarella Bono used her social media account to call out other former Miss Venezuela participants and started a domino effect that led to shutting down of the organisation. On Thursday, Miss Venezuela 2013 Migbelis Castellanos told Telemundo morning show ‘Un Nuevo Dia’ that she personally experienced ‘sponsorship invitations’ in the years leading up to the national pageant. She also said she saw how other contestants received luxury items of ‘dubious origin’ that they couldn’t have otherwise afforded.

Over last several years Miss Venezuela pageant has survived many controversies. In 2014 BBC did a documentary on Miss Venezuela exposing various ill practices the contestants have to go through in order to stay in the game. Many local publications have also been pointing out to the corruption in Miss Venezuela pageant. But none of it could affect the pageant because the accusers were always the outsiders. Now that the allegations are coming directly from former contestants and title holders, the organisers couldn’t stay immune to the controversy. A contestant from Miss Venezuela 1986 revealed that a few months after participating in Miss Venezuela, she was asked by a person associated with the pageant to travel to Panama for a parade. Upon arriving in Panama the scenario was very different than what she was promised. They took her to a barracks where a very high profile person from Panamanian military was staying. She was later taken to a room full of mirrors and was offered drinks. Since she showed her discomfort to all these advances, they confiscated her passport and cut out the telephone connection to her hotel room. After a brief struggle she managed to get back to Venezuela. At this point she wanted to sue Miss Venezuela organisers for putting her in such position. But her efforts went in vein as the organisers were far too powerful. Another former contestant recalled that she was told by a person closely associated with Osmel Sousa to visit office of a businessman. She was told to ‘get ready’ and visit this person. When she declined, she was told that she must take advantage of such opportunities since she is an adult.

The Cisneros Media is taking matters in its own hands now. “Venezuelans can be sure that the organization will not hesitate to take the necessary measures to assure no acts against our rules, values and ethical and moral principles take place during our activities,” said Jonathan Blum, the president of Cisneros Media. After producing over 7 Miss Universe winners, 6 Miss World winners and countless other international title holders, Miss Venezuela had received great amount of global recognition. Miss Venezuela is and will always remain the pride of Venezuela. Although the current shut down of Miss Venezuela is saddening, we can hope that this will clean up all the dirt from the pageant’s past and will give us a brand new Miss Venezuela pageant. Pageant world is incomplete without Miss Venezuela and we sincerely hope that dreams of millions of girls in Venezuela shall not get crushed because of actions of a few corrupt organisers.

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Article by: Jinendra Aherkar