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Guatemala's presidential divorce of convenience

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Torres divorced Colom to skirt a constitutional provision banning family members of sitting president from running for the following election. The controversy that followed, a series of smaller scandals and a political climate dominated by the question over how the country should combat a crippling crime wave, has turned the would-be first female president of Guatemala into a long shot. As the Sept. 11 first round approaches, her opponent, a former military general with a checkered past, is pulling away, according to recent polls.

'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?”

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