Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Monday that his country had been "robbed" of the Miss Universe crown, adding his voice to the avalanche of criticism that followed the victory of the United States' R'Bonney Gabriel.
"They stole the Miss Universe title, Amanda Dudamel won by a landslide," Maduro said during an event in Caracas. "It can't be a robbery like that, she is from Petare, she does community work there in Petare."
Fashion designer and social activist Amanda Dudamel, daughter of former Vinotinto national team coach Rafael Dudamel, was considered to be one of the favourites to win the crown, but R'Bonney Gabriel was crowned on Saturday.
Gabriel is 28 years old and a sustainable fashion designer based in Texas.
Dudamel, 23, was the first runner-up at the Miss Universe ceremony in New Orleans, USA, sparking controversial reactions questioning the verdict after several contestants said they believed the competition was rigged.
Without alluding to the criticism of Miss Universe, Dudamel, who was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2021 in a modest ceremony marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, thanked fans of for their support of her and the contest that has given Venezuela seven universal crowns.
"I am HAPPY, satisfied and more grateful than ever!!!! THANK YOU VENEZUELA, for accompanying me in a huge dream! And THANK YOU to all the people from different countries around the world who joined me on this exciting journey," Dudumel wrote in an Instagram post that has since received nearly half a million "likes."
Venezuela has not won Miss Universe since 2013, when Maria Gabriela Isler, one of the current directors of Miss Venezuela, was crowned.