San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemalan judge's ruling paves way for first lady's presidential bid

GUATEMALA CITY – A Guatemalan judge announced Friday that she has granted the divorce petition of President Álvaro Colom and wife Sandra Torres, clearing the way for the first lady to compete in September’s presidential election.

The couple filed for divorce on March 11 and family court Judge Mildred Roca reached a decision last week, but had to delay issuing her ruling until other magistrates ruled on 15 separate motions filed by various groups and individuals trying to block the divorce.

All of the motions were rejected as inadmissible, ill-advised or “frivolous,” a Supreme Court spokesman said Thursday.

The plaintiffs who filed the challenges accused Torres of engaging in “legal fraud” to evade the constitutional provision that bars close relatives of the president from seeking the highest office.

The Colom-Torres divorce has set off an avalanche of criticism from opposition parties and conservative elements of Guatemalan society.

Torres announced on March 8 that she planned to run for president as the candidate of a coalition of Colom’s UNE party and the Great National Alliance.

Retired Gen. Otto Pérez Molina, presumptive candidate of the right-wing Patriot Party, currently leads in the opinion polls with support from 47.2 percent of likely voters, well ahead of Torres with 13.7 percent.

Colom defeated Pérez in the last election.

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