Guantanamo 'soooo beautiful!' Miss Universe says

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 1, 2009 at 9:11 PM EDT

Miss Universe 2008, Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela, caused a stir here after gushing over her visit to the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, home of the "war on terror" prison camp.

Mendoza, who works for the Miss Universe organization -- an NBC Universal and Donald Trump Partnership -- visited Guantanamo as part of a USO (United Service Organizations) tour that takes entertainers to visit US troops.

"This week, Guantanamo!!! It was an incredible experience," wrote the 22 year-old Mendoza on her Miss Universe-sponsored personal blog. "We had a wonderful time, this truly was a memorable trip!"

Marines and soldiers showed Mendoza and Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart around the base, then took them on "a ride around the land and it was a loooot of fun!

"We visited the Detainees (sic) camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting," she wrote.

"The water in Guantanamo Bay is soooo beautiful! It was unbelievable ... I didn?t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful."

The Guantanamo "war on terror" prison opened after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States as a place to house "enemy combatant" suspects.

Mendoza's posting was quickly struck from her blog -- not before the New York Times posted it on its website -- and replaced by a statement from the president of the Miss Universe organization, Paula Shugart.

The comments "were in reference to the hospitality she received while meeting the members of the US military and their families who are stationed in Guantanamo," Shugart wrote.

Mendoza and Stewart have "traveled to many locations and many bases around the globe including Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea and most recently, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba," Shugart said.

Local media pounced on Mendoza's comments.

Globovision reporter Ana Karina Villalba said it was necessary to better educate beauty queens -- of which Venezuela is famous for producing -- so that they know what is happening around the world.

"In Venezuela we should have broadly educated misses," said Villalba, remembering that a few years ago a beauty queen said she loved "William Shakespeare's music."

On local blogs, comments ranged from "Let's go vacation in Guantanamo because it's soooo much fun!" to "We'd have to lock Dayanita up."

The Guantanamo prison is one of the most controversial symbols of former president George W. Bush's legacy, where former detainees and human rights activists say the inmates are tortured.

The United States set up a naval base in Guantanamo after the 1898 Spanish-American war, when Cuba was freed of Spanish colonial rule, then obtained a long-term lease on the site.

The Cuban government that came to power after the 1959 revolution however does not accept US control, and wants the bay under Havana's control.

US President Barack Obama in January ordered the prison camp closed within one year.




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