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Guatemala top court rejects Torres presidential run

August 2, 2011

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal Saturday by former first lady Sandra Torres that disqualified her from running for president in the country’s September general elections.

The ruling was issued by Supreme Court President Luis Archila, who said the judges decided that Torres cannot legally run in the upcoming election because she was the wife of current President Álvaro Colom until last April, when they got a divorce.

The ruling National Unity of Hope (UNE) coalition and the right-wing Grand National Alliance (GANA) had issued the appeal after exhausting several procedures with the National Registry of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (SET) of Guatemala, which refused to register Torres.

Archila said that 12 of the 13 judges rejected Torres’ request under Article 186 due to her relationship with the president. “This relationship exists, regardless whether they are divorced,” he said.

He added that the judges found the divorce to be a fraud and that Torres ended the marriage so that she could evade a constitutional prohibition from running for the highest office.

The saga kicked off in April when Guatemalan courts approved the divorce, sparking a wave of criticism by opponents who called it a cynical attempt to circumvent a constitutional ban on a president being succeeded by his or her spouse.

Fifteen legal challenges were filed attempting to block the divorce, but they were rejected by the courts.

So far no political leaders have commented on the issue. However, Torres’ camp said they will appeal the court’s decision to the Constitutional Court.

Earlier this month, Torres and her attorneys appeared at a hearing presenting their arguments to the Supreme Court, as thousands of supporters waited outside the courthouse.

During the hearing, Torres said election officials “issued a legal and political resolution” in July that rejected her registration, and she added that her divorce was based on personal, not political reasons.

“The aim is to violate my political rights and the rights of the more than one million people who have asked me to be their presidential candidate,” Torres argued before the judges.

A month before the divorce, the first lady said she was divorcing despite her love for her husband.

“The love for Guatemala is the reason why the president and I put the interests of the country ahead of our own interests,” she said at the time.

On September 11, more than seven million Guatemalans are expected to go to the polls to elect a new president and vice president, 333 mayors, 158 legislators and 20 members of parliament.

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