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Guatemala high court bars ex-first lady from running for president

The Guatemalan Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] on Monday ruled that former first lady Sandra Torres is ineligible to run for the office of president because of her relationship to current President Alvaro Colom [official website], her ex-husband. Torres and Colom divorced earlier this year [BBC report] after Torres announced her plans to represent the ruling National Unity for Hope party in elections that will be held in September. The Guatemalan Constitution [text, PDF] bans relatives of the president from running for the office. Court President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre held that because Torres was Colom's wife for most of the term, Torres would be in violation of the Constitution if she were to run for office. The court did not rule on whether Torres and Colom's divorce constituted fraud.

Otto Perez Molina, Torres' main opposition and leader of the Patriot Party, accused the two of fraud [BBC report] for divorcing in an effort to circumvent the constitutional ban. Torres and Colom are not the only Guatemalan leaders to face legal trouble. A Guatemalan judge ruled [JURISt report] last August that former president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] and two of his former ministers would stand trial on charges of embezzlement. Portillo, president of Guatemala from 2000-2004, is accused of diverting approximately USD $15 million in funds from the Ministry of Defense.

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