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Former Guatemalan first lady's presidential run hits wall

By the CNN Wire Staff
Guatemala's Constitutional Court has barred former first lady Sandra Torres from running as a presidential candidate.
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Guatemala's Constitutional Court has barred former first lady Sandra Torres from running as a presidential candidate. .
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sandra Torres says judges made their decision "without any legal basis"
  • The nation's Constitutional Court says she can't run for office
  • She divorced her husband, the president, to run
  • In Guatemala, close relatives of the president are barred from running for election
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(CNN) -- Guatemala's Constitutional Court has barred the country's former first lady from running for president -- shaking up the political landscape a month before the election.

The court's Monday ruling means Sandra Torres, who divorced Guatemala's current president in an attempt to circumvent a nepotism law, has now exhausted her appeals.

The seven justices voted unanimously that Torres was not eligible to be on the ballot because close relatives of the president are constitutionally barred from running. Three of the judges had additional arguments for the decision.

Their decision upheld a Supreme Court of Justice ruling issued last month.

Torres slammed the ruling Tuesday, saying it left Guatemala's neediest citizens without anyone to represent them in the country's highest office.

"Without any legal basis, they made decisions that were political, not legal," she told reporters Tuesday.

"For me, it is anti-democratic, this political lynching, this lynching in the media," she added.

Torres filed for divorce from President Alvaro Colom on March 11; the divorce was finalized in April.

The country's Supreme Court ruled last month that the divorce was used to avoid the constitutional prohibition, and that in trying to get around the law, Torres committed fraud. She appealed to the Constitutional Court, which has final say in all constitutional matters.

The Constitutional Court said that Torres was a close relative of the president and thus not eligible to run, but it dissented by rejecting that legal fraud had occurred.

Some followers of Torres, who were gathered outside the court, cried when they heard the news.

Torres said Tuesday that she had not decided whether to support another presidential candidate. She urged her followers to support congressional and mayoral candidates from the coalition of parties behind her candidacy, saying they would protect social programs.

In her statement before the Constitutional Court last week, Torres accused the supreme court of having politicized justice. More than 1.7 million Guatemalans had signed a petition saying they wanted her as a candidate, she said, arguing that the people's voice should be heard.

"Democracy is built with more democracy," she told the judges.

In her argument she reiterated that she was "not married to anyone" and suggested that there was discrimination against her because of her gender.

Torres, 55, is a former businesswoman and clothing exporter. She was the candidate of the coalition of the National Unity for Hope Party (UNE) and the Grand National Alliance (GANA).

The end to her candidacy could boost the presidential aspirations of the front-runner, retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina of the Patriotic Party. According to a Prodatos poll released in late July, 37.6% of those surveyed said they would vote for Perez Molina in the September 11 elections. Torres came in second with 17.2% of the vote.

The poll also asked who they would vote for if Torres' candidacy was rejected. With Torres out, Perez Molina's numbers rose to 41.2%, and former congressman Manuel Baldizon, of the Democratic Renovated Liberty Party (Lider), was a distant second with 13.6%.

 
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