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Outraged Colombians look for blame in Miss Universe mix-up

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Bogota: Colombians celebrated for a little more than two minutes what appeared to be an unprecedented feat for this beauty pageant-obsessed South American nation: back-to-back Miss Universe titles.

From President Juan Manuel Santos to Miss Colombia’s relatives in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla, millions of Colombians who tuned in for yesterday’s pageant screamed joyously when it was announced that Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo had won this year’s crown.

But the celebrating turned to shouts of fraud seconds later as host Steve Harvey announced on live television from Las Vegas that he had mistakenly read from the cue card. The contestant from the Philippines was the new Miss Universe, not Miss Colombia.

“They took away her crown,” and “the shortest reign in history” was the sentiment expressed almost universally on Twitter, where the hashtag “Respect the Crown” was the country’s top trending topic.

“The entire country, and our family, was overcome with emotion,” Alvaro Arevalo, the Colombian runner-up’s cousin, told Blu Radio in an interview today. “The truth is we’re a little shocked.”

The sudden reversal even caught the president by surprise, forcing him to reverse his initial celebratory tweet.

“I was watching Miss Universe with my family. We started a huge celebration when they said Colombia had won the Miss Universe title for the second straight year,” Santos told Radio Nacional on today.

“They put the crown on her head. The photos are there to prove it. To me, as a Colombian, she is still Miss Universe,” he said.

Colombians are obsessed with beauty and pageants are a major draw across social classes. But unlike neighboring Venezuela, which has won seven Miss Universe titles, Colombians are accustomed to falling short of the crown, with five runner-up appearances since 1992 including yesterday’s.

Before last year’s crowning of Paulina Vega, only one other Colombian had won the Miss Universe title, in 1958.