Allegations of prostitution and corruption in the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant led the company behind the iconic contest to shut its operations and suspend all castings, according to a statement.
Cisneros Media is launching an investigation into the prostitution claims, which allege that some participants in the Miss Venezuela pageant have offered sexual favors in exchange for cars, trips and other monetary rewards from government officials.
The investigation comes days after former Miss Venezuelas accused each other in Instagram comments of receiving financial gains in exchange for sexual favors. Some alleged the use of federal resources to sponsor contestants’ plastic surgeries and couture outfits. High-profile government officials and well-known entrepreneurs aligned with the Maduro presidency were allegedly involved.
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“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.
The scandal has unfolded following the abrupt departure of former Miss Venezuela president Osmel Sousa, 71. Also known as the “Tsar of Beauty,” Sousa resigned the position he held for 37 years earlier last month, declining to explain any further. During his years of leadership, Venezuela won seven Miss Universe crowns and more than 20 international pageants.
The statement also said there will be a complete pageant reorganization and that a new “Beauty Committee” will be formed following the claims.
Prostitution and corruption allegations against the Miss Venezuela organization are not new. Local publications like Efecto Cocuyo previously reported on similar claims relating to government officials abroad.
Last week, 1997 contestant Annarella Bono used her social media account to call out other former Miss Venezuela participants.
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.
“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.
--Sindy Nanclares contributed to this story