Former first lady Sandra Torres faces election block

The former first lady Sandra Torres has had her presidential bid blocked by Guatemala's supreme electoral court on the grounds that her divorce from President Álvaro Colom is a sham.

The court has yet to make any formal announcement but a spokeswoman for Ms Torres’ centre-left National Union of Hope (UNE) party broke the news, saying the party would appeal against the ruling. Yet Ms Torres’s campaign may have already been dealt a fatal blow – she must register as a candidate for the September poll by July 12, giving her little time to resolve the legal hurdles her candidacy now faces.

Ms Torres, a 52-year-old businesswoman and policy expert, tearfully announced her divorce from Mr Colom last March in a bid to sidestep a constitutional clause preventing close family members of a sitting president running for the country’s highest office.

"Love for Guatemala is the reason why the president and I are putting the country’s interests ahead of our own," she said at the time. "I am neither the first nor the last woman to divorce in this country. But I am the first to divorce for Guatemala."

After more than 14 years together, including eight as husband and wife, the couple made their split legal in April. Ms Torres even moved out of the presidential palace to avoid any suggestion that she was using Mr Colom’s position to further her campaign.

Needless to say, the divorce has been hugely controversial in Guatemala, and not just because the constitutional restriction on presidential family succession is intended to help prevent a return to the country’s decades of autocratic and frequently brutal rule.

The conservative opposition Patriot Party described the move as “electoral fraud” and even Mr Colom, interviewed weeks before the divorce plans were made public, had admitted that such a stratagem would be “immoral”.

“She has been preparing to make a fool of the Guatemalan people for three years and three months [since Mr Colom took office as president],” proclaimed one congresswoman, Roxana Baldetti. “She has used the title of first lady to satiate her ambition for power and now she prefers to divorce in order to remain in power.”

Beyond her marital status, few in Guatemala seem to dispute the ability of Ms Torres, whose resume includes a stint as head of the government’s anti-poverty agency. The former first couple met in the 1990s as activists campaigning for a political movement founded by leftwing guerrillas during the democratic transition and she has often been viewed as the brains behind her husband’s political career.

There are no other strong figures in the UNE and, should Ms Torres’ disqualification stand, the party may be unable to field a viable presidential candidate. Yet it may make little difference. Currently, Ms Torres is polling around 15%, almost 30 points behind Patriot Party candidate Otto Pérez, a former army general who promises to crack down on the violent crimewave rocking the Central American nation.

Mr Colom, a 60-year old industrial engineer, came to power in 2008 amid promises to lift millions out of extreme poverty. However he has run into problems financing his social programmes while vicious gang warfare, often involving young Guatemalans deported from the US, has escalated, and the cocaine trade has tightened its grip.

Mexico’s drug cartels, which use the country as a staging post on the route to US markets, are now so powerful and have corrupted so many judges and police officers that analysts have begun to describe Guatemala as Latin America’s first “narco-state”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent