Published March 28, 2014
She’s posed for the cameras sporting bikinis and evening gowns.
But in her latest photo shoot, Miss Universe 2009 is bound, gagged, and bloodied for a campaign aimed at drawing the world's attention to alleged human rights abuses taking place in her country, Venezuela, where anti-government protests have led to the deaths of at least 30 people in the last few weeks.
Stefania Fernandez is the most high-profile Venezuelan to take part in the online campaign called “Your Voice Is Your Power” launched by Sin Mordaza, No Gag, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). The photos show Fernandez bound with rope and bloody tears streaming down her dirty face.
“Making all the #SinMordaza pictures didn’t take more than an hour, but I cried and felt rage," Fernandez said. Fernandez is one of many Venezuelans who have taken part in the campaign, including singer and TV host Francis Coleon.
The photos are circulating on social media with the hashtags #mordazasenvenezuela or #gaggedinvenezuela and are the brainchild of Daniel Bracci, a Venezuelan fashion photographer and graphic designer. Bracci asked Fernandez via Twitter if she would model for him and she responded right away. He called the session "very memorable" and "full of feelings."
"The idea came from what’s been happening in Venezuela over the last 15 years, and by something that occurred to me personally," Bracci, 30, told Fox News Latino via email. "My 95-year-old grandfather was killed in the hands of the underworld during a car robbery, and to this day justice has not been done."
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters, many university students, continue to rally across the country against high inflation (56 percent in 2013), shortages of basic goods (cooking oil) and high rates of violent crime. President Nicolás Maduro and his followers argue the opposition-led protests are coup attempts.
Human rights organizations have denounced the Venezuelan government for aggressively attacking peaceful protesters, censoring the media, threatening to attack or kill journalists and "aggressively taking steps to reduce the availability of media outlets that engage in critical programming."
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has called the situation in Venezuela "alarming" and Secretary of State John Kerry has said the government of Venezuela must end its "terror campaign against its own citizens."
The shocking photos, Bracci said, are "a message of peace, a message for the world to see what we are living, a message so that human rights are respected, and especially so that there is no more hatred between Venezuelan brothers just for thinking differently, since in the end we are all gagged."