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Guantanamo 'fun', says Miss Universe


MIAMI: A “relaxing, calm, beautiful place” may not be everyone’s description of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where the United States holds about 240 prisoners in a detention centre that has drawn condemnation from around the world.

But that – in words that will re-ignite criticism of beauty queens as vacant airheads – was the opinion of reigning Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela, who visited the naval facility last month. Her trip was organised by the United Service Organizations (USO), which supports US troops.

The base, whose presence Cuba has long branded illegal, is used as a prison camp for terrorism suspects.

Caracas-born Mendoza, 22, who visited the facility from March 20 to 25 along with Miss USA Crystle Stewart, 27, enthused about her Guantanamo trip as an “incredible experience” in a blog entry posted on the Miss Universe website dated last Friday.

“It was a loooot of fun!” she wrote, describing how the two pageant queens met US military staff and took rides around the camp, which is encircled by barbed wire, minefields and watchtowers.

She said they also visited a bar on the base and the “unbelievable” beach there.

“We visited the detainees’ camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how they recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting,” she wrote.

“I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful,” she added.

Former detainees and human-rights groups have alleged the use of torture, including “waterboarding” (simulated drowning), at the Guantanamo prison.

In a statement, the Miss Universe Organization said the trip to Guantanamo was part of a longstanding relationship with the USO and its entertainment programme “which boosts the morale of US troops.”

“Dayana Mendoza’s comments on her blog were in reference to the hospitality she received while meeting the members of the US military,” Miss Universe Organization president Paula Shugart said in the statement.

Recounting her “memorable” trip, Ms Mendoza, crowned Miss Universe 2008 in Vietnam, said: “We also met the military dogs and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills. All the (Army) guys were amazing with us.”

In one of his first acts in charge, US President Barack Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison. –REUTERS

See also:
A photo collection of Dayana Mendoza, Miss Universe 2008

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