PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ Venezuelan beauty Barbara Palacios began her one-year reign as Miss Universe Tuesday, calling her triumph a time of happiness ''for me, for my country and for all of Latin America.''

The 5-foot-8, 119-pound account executive from Caracas was crowned Monday night in a contest viewed live on television by millions worldwide. Miss United States, Christy Fichtner, 23, of Dallas was first runner-up among the 77 contestants.

Miss Palacios, 22, is the third Miss Universe to come from Venezuela since 1979, when Maritza Sayalero won. In 1981, the title went to Irene Sainz.

''Beauty contests are frivolous, yes, but they also can be positive, a goal to reach for,'' she said during an interview. ''It's nice to be beautiful, to hear people call you beautiful, but is even nicer to feel beauty from within.''

Miss Palacios travels Wednesday to New York City for a four-day promotional tour and on Sunday will go to Los Angeles where she will share a luxury apartment during her reign with Miss United States.

As winner of the 35th annual Miss Universe contest, Miss Palacios will receive nearly $200,000 in cash and prizes, an extensive wardrobe, a mink coat and diamond, plus a personal appearance contract, a Hollywood screen test, and a sports car.

The other runners-up were, in order, the representatives of Colombia, Maria Monica Urbina; Poland, Brygida Bziukiewicz, and Finland, Tuula Polvi.