Add Panama to the growing list of Latin American nations refusing to participate in this year's Miss Universe pageant, a contest partially owned by 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump, after the business tycoon generated global backlash with disparaging remarks about Mexicans immigrating to the United States.
“They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump said, referring to Mexican immigrants in a speech June 16 declaring his candidacy for president. “Some, I assume, are good people,” he added. He also suggested building a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Protesting these words, Panama's Miss Panama Organization and its Telemetro television channel announced they would neither participate in nor broadcast this year's contest, the Associated Press reported Saturday. The entities described their decision as "a message of solidarity" to Mexicans. Miss Universe 2015 could take place in December; the Miss Universe contest that concluded in January was actually a postponement of the 2014 contest.
With this move, Panama joins a growing chorus of voices from the Latin American community blasting Trump's remarks as offensive and ignorant. Colombian Paulina Vega, the reigning Miss Universe, condemned Trump's comments in an Instagram post Thursday as "unjust and hurtful."
Organizers in Costa Rica and Mexico have also withdrawn from this year's contest.
"We reject the xenophobic and offensive statements by the owner of the Miss Universe pageant against our Mexican brothers and sisters, and therefore, against all Latin Americans," Teletica, the television network that organizes the Miss Costa Rica pageant, said Wednesday in a statement.
Teletica added it would not broadcast the annual pageant. "We will only reconsider our decision if Donald Trump retracts his comments immediately and apologizes for his inadmissible statements, or if he separates himself completely from the organization of the pageant," it said.
Miss Universe is a beauty pageant that began in 1973. It is part of the Miss Universe Organization, a venture jointly owned by Donald Trump and NBCUniversal that includes Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, according to its corporate website. The organization "uses its global grassroots reach to empower women to be self-confident and strive to be their personal best."