Guatemalan First Lady divorces to be eligible for presidential election

In an attempt to bypass the Constitution, Sandra Torres divorced Alavaro Colom, the Guatemalan Presi

Sandra Torres Casanova - formerly Sandra Torres de Colom - is no longer the Guatemalan First Lady. The 51 year old has officially divorced from her husband, Alvaro Colom, the Guatemalan President, elected in 2007. She had previously revealed her will to succeed Colom - to whom the Constitution does not allow a second term - after his time in office comes to an end in 2012.

"My commitment is to secure employment and progress for all, to create a model of economic development with a social outlook", she told supporters of her political party, the social democratic National Union for Hope (UNE), gathered in the city of Mixco, a few miles south of Guatemala City, the country's capital.

Nevertheless, Torres faced an important obstacle: the country's political Constitution. The text's 186th article clearly states that relatives of the President, be it by blood or "affinity" - thus including wedlock - cannot run for office. However, the First Couple filed for divorce on mutual agreement grounds. The case was closed in no more than five weeks and the couple were officially divorced on Friday 8 April.

Sandra Torres had announced her intention to end her eight year marriage in a public speech in which she could hardly contain her tears. She told the nation she was "getting married with the Guatemalan people", reiterating that she has the "constitutional right, the human right [and] the political right" to stand for the presidency.

This triggered an immediate reaction from the main opposition party, the conservative Patriot Party (PP). Its leader, the former General Otto Perez Molina - defeated by Alvaro Colom in the 2007 election - told the BBC that Torres' candidacy would still violate the constitution and members of his party labelled the divorce as an attempt of "electoral fraud".

Nonetheless, the former First Lady did receive tremendous support from her party. On Sunday 10 April, a public rally saw thousands of her supporters dressed in green - UNE's colours - take to the streets of the capital. They delivered a petition in favour of her candidacy, which was allegedly signed by close to 1,3 million people, to the country's Constitutional Court.

The presidential divorce shocked many in this conservative Central American nation, deeply influenced by Catholicism. The local press stirred controversy this week by pointing out that the former couple still lived together, while Torres still introduced herself as "de Colom" in her pre-electoral campaign posters and television appearances.

The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) - Guatemala's electoral authority - will now have to decide if Torres' candidacy is in line with the country's fundamental law, which is somewhat vague on whether or not ex-spouses of an incumbent president can run for the highest office.