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Honduran Miss World Contestant Missing in Run-up to Pageant

  • Reuters

FILE - Maria Jose Alvarado is crowned the new Miss Honduras in San Pedro, Sula, Honduras, April 26, 2014.

FILE - Maria Jose Alvarado is crowned the new Miss Honduras in San Pedro, Sula, Honduras, April 26, 2014.

A Honduran beauty queen has been reported missing days before she was set to leave for London to compete in the Miss World pageant.

Maria Jose Alvarado has been missing since Thursday, when the 19-year-old was seen leaving a party with her sister in a car without a license plate, said Honduran TV personality and local beauty contest host Salvador Nasralla on Monday.

"What worries me is that the car didn't have a license plate ... The root problem here is the rule of crime," he said.

The young women disappeared in the Santa Barbara region in western Honduras that is controlled by drug gangs.

"We hope to find them alive," said government security agencies spokesman Jose Coello, who said that four people were being questioned.

Honduras is the murder capital of the world, with a homicide rate above 90 people per 100,000, about double the rate of its closest peers Venezuela, Belize and El Salvador.

Alvarado was set to leave for London on Wednesday, Nasralla said.

"It won't be any surprise to have to tell the pageant she has been kidnapped ... You read that people go missing and are murdered every day," he said.

Events surrounding the contest start this weekend ahead of the contest's finale on Dec. 14, according to the Miss World website.

Mexico's drug cartels have expanded into Honduras in recent years, making the poor Central American nation a major thoroughfare for trafficking South America cocaine to the United State and driving a surge in violence.

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