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Guatemala's first lady to divorce husband - so she can take his job

Guatemalan law bans the current president’s family from trying to succeed him – so the Coloms are getting a divorce.

Sandra Torres de Colom is seeking a divorce from her husband, current president Alvaro Colom, so that she can run to seek his job.
Sandra Torres de Colom is seeking a divorce from her husband, current president Alvaro Colom, so that she can run to seek his job.
Image: Luis Soto/AP

THE PRESIDENT OF Guatemala and his wife are to divorce by mutual consent – so that she can escape a legal clause that denies her the chance to seek the job herself.

President Alvaro Colom’s four-year term expires in January 2012, and the incumbent is ineligible for re-election to the job – meaning his National Unity for Hope party is required to find a new candidate to run in September’s election.

His popular wife, Sandra Torres de Colom, has been earmarked as the successor-in-waiting – but Guatemala’s constitution, attempting to stop any despot from taking command of the country and then merely beginning a family dictatorship, bars members of the current president’s extended family from trying to succeed him.

As a result, the first couple have initiated divorce proceedings – an unusual public sacrifice to have to make in order to seek the job.

AFP reports that the divorce papers were filed on March 11, with a spokesman for the country’s supreme court saying that the divorce could be finalised within a month given that the couple appear to be in mutual consent over the move.

The Guatemala Times quoted a local MP, Ninth Montenegro, as saying it was “amazing where your ambitions to be the next President of this country can lead you, even, to leave her husband.

“This is not ethical or moral. When she is no longer the wife of the President, it does not mean that it never was his wife. ”

The main opposition candidate to Mrs de Colom, the Patriot Party’s Otto Perez Molina, has labelled the move as a “fraud” and said his party would refuse to allow the first couple to “mock the law”.

The BBC cites the opinions of other critics, who suggested that Mrs de Colom was the person pulling the proverbial strings in her husband’s administration, having overseen its programmes on poverty relief.

The Constitutional Court is still due to rule on whether Zury Rios, the daughter of the country’s former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, is entitled to see election.

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Gavan Reilly

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