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Guatemalan divorce filing tied to presidential politics

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
Alvaro Colom and Sandra Torres de Colom have filed for divorce to clear the way for the first lady to run for the presidency.
Alvaro Colom and Sandra Torres de Colom have filed for divorce to clear the way for the first lady to run for the presidency.
  • President Alvaro Colom and wife Sandra Torres de Colom filed for divorce on March 11
  • Critics have said that Torres cannot run because she is related to the president
  • Because it is mutual, no cause is needed for the divorce
  • Alvaro Colom
  • Guatemala

(CNN) -- Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and his wife, Sandra Torres de Colom, have filed for divorce in an attempt to clear the way for the first lady to run for the presidency, Guatemalan Judge Mildred Roca told CNN.

Torres jumped in the race for president on March 9, but she has been dogged by critics who called her candidacy illegitimate because of a constitutional article that bars relatives of the president from seeking the high office.

The couple filed for divorce on March 11, the family court judge said. The divorce petition was a "mutual agreement," so judicial hearings will not be necessary, Roca said.

Under Guatemalan law, within eight days of the divorce petition being filed, both parties must meet with a conciliatory commission to examine if the marriage can be saved. If not, then the divorce can be finalized in another eight days.

Roca declined to say whether Colom and Torres met with such a commission.

In an interview with CNN en Espanol the day before she filed for divorce, Torres declined to say whether divorce was an option to see her candidacy go forward.

She did say, however, that she and her husband had an "excellent relationship," and that she was very happy.

Torres claimed that under Guatemala's civil code, marriage does not constitute a relation that is banned under the constitution, and she said that her candidacy was legitimate even without divorce.

"I have the legitimate right to participate, the political right, the human right, to be a presidential candidate," she said.

Critics are calling the divorce a fraud to circumvent the anti-nepotism article in the constitution, but Roca said that because the divorce is mutually agreed upon, no reason or cause need be given.

"Their intentions are a personal matter," the judge said.

If mutual, the only requirement to is have been married for longer than one year. Torres and Colom have been married for eight.

Torres and Colom belong to the National Unity of Hope, or UNE, party. In a statement, the party confirmed the pending divorce, stating that the goal was "to avoid further political manipulations from the opposition."

"They were in a situation that was difficult, but for the good of the nation," said Jaime Martinez, general secretary of the Grand National Alliance party, which is allied with UNE. "They are doing it for national interests and not personal interests. They are making a sacrifice."

Constitutional lawyer Carlos Molina Mencos told the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre that the politically motivated divorce made a farce out of the institution of marriage.

"As public figures, they should set an example, and the worst part is that they are taking these actions only for the possibility of a candidacy," he told the paper. "This means that if they win they can reunite, or if not, they can also reunite. This is a mockery."