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”.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments