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Guatemala's presidential divorce of convenience

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'Divorce for her country'

Guatemala’s Constitution, which also prevents Colom from running for a consecutive term, prohibits family members from running to prevent family dynasties. In an emotional address in April, Torres said, “I am divorcing my husband, but marrying the people. … I am not going to be the first or last woman who decides to get a divorce, but I am the only one to divorce for her country.”

The divorce was scandalous in a country where churches big and small, Catholic and evangelical, sit on every street of every city and village. The powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the institution of marriage was not negotiable.

The perhaps more powerful association that represents big business owners, CACIF, was less charitable. “These actions illustrate the decline of moral values of society,” the group said in a statement. “How can we expect to restore Guatemala’s moral and fundamental values if its presidential pair send a message like this?”

A political bulldog with Tammy Faye Baker eyes, Torres has defended her decision to end the civil marriage.

But the divorce was followed by a series of scandals, including a legal effort by her own sister to invalidate Torres’ candidacy.

“The divorce has been a distraction that she has not really been able to overcome,” says Guillermo Méndez, a professor at Guatemala’s Francisco Marroquín University and founder of the Institute for Services to the Nation, which is trying to inform voters on candidate positions. “Her campaign has not recovered enough for her to be able to deliver her message.”

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