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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Miss Colombia to sue Letterman
Miss Colombia, Andrea Noceti
Ms Noceti says she was outraged by the remarks
Colombia's top beauty queen has threatened to sue US television talk show host David Letterman for joking on air that swallowing bags of heroin ranked among her top talents.

Andrea Noceti, who competed in the Miss Universe competition in Puerto Rico last week, said Mr Letterman had insulted all Colombians and made light of the country's civil war.


There was no intention to offend her or the people of Colombia

David Letterman
"I am totally outraged," Ms Noceti said on RCN television in Bogota.

"I don't think there should be jokes about something this serious... people have died in this conflict."

Mr Letterman has apologised for the joke, saying no offence was intended.

Special 'talent'

In his CBS network show's opening monologue on Friday, Mr Letterman said Ms Noceti had swallowed bagged heroin - a common method for smuggling the drug - to impress Miss Universe judges during the 'talent' competition.

"I don't know if you've seen a beauty pageant lately, but you know what's really gotten very impressive, the talent competition," Mr Letterman said.

"For example, Miss Colombia - and this was hard to beat - swallowed 50 balloons full of heroin."

The joke has infuriated many people in Colombia, who say that are tired of being stereotyped as drug traffickers when travelling abroad.

Three-way war

Colombians are caught in a bloody three-way war between Marxist guerrillas, outlawed right-wing militias and the army.

Colombia's is the world's top producer of cocaine and is a major supplier of heroin for the US market.

David Letterman
Letterman has issued an apology and invited Ms Noceti onto his show

Mauricio Suarez, the Colombian consul general, said in a letter to Mr Letterman that the joke "not only defamed the reputation of Miss Colombia, but also hurt the feelings of our entire community".

"Colombia is the one country in the world where the strongest battle against the production of drugs is being fought," he wrote.

And Colombia's ambassador to the United States, Luis Alberto Moreno, has called on Colombians in New York to protest outside Mr Letterman's studio on Thursday.

Invitation

Mr Letterman, has issued a statement apologising and saying "there was no intention to offend her or the people of Colombia".

A CBS spokesman added that Ms Noceti had been invited to appear on Thursday's talk show.

But Ms Noceti, who was eliminated from the competition in the first round, said she was not letting up on Mr Letterman.

When asked whether she would sue the comedian, she said, "we have sent a letter to David Letterman. Let's see what happens, but this is the idea".

But she also said she would accept the invitation to appear on Mr Letterman's show, adding that she would defend herself and the Colombian people.

"I think it is a very important opportunity to show the world who we Colombians are," she said.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Europe
Miss or monsieur prank revealed
18 Apr 01 | Middle East
Army chic for Israeli beauty queen
18 Dec 00 | South Asia
Miss World defends beauty contests
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