Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala first couple's divorce on hold

Sandra Torres and Alvaro Colom in 2008
Image caption Sandra Torres said she would divorce her husband for the love of her country

A court in Guatemala has ordered a halt to the divorce proceedings of the country's first couple.

First Lady Sandra Torres said last week she was seeking to divorce President Alvaro Colom, so she could stand for election to succeed him.

Guatemala's constitution bans close relatives of the president from running for the top office.

A group of students had petitioned the court to stop the divorce, which they said would bypass the constitution.

The students called the move by the first couple a farce.

Last week, Ms Torres told Guatemalans she was leaving a loving marriage for the sake of the nation.

Death threats

The decision of the first couple to seek a divorce has been controversial, with opposition politicians and the Catholic Church highly critical.

The main opposition candidate for the presidential election in September, former general Otto Perez Molina, called it electoral fraud.

A spokesperson for the court said the couple's divorce proceedings would be on hold until a final decision was reached on whether the petition brought by the students would be allowed to proceed.

On Friday, the judge hearing the first couple's divorce case said she had received anonymous threats warning her not to grant the divorce.

Judge Mildred Roca said she had received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as belonging to a "group defending the constitution" and warning her that if she granted the divorce a member of her family would be executed.

Judge Roca's security detail has been increased since news of the threats emerged and an investigation is under way to determine their source.

Sandra Torres is Mr Colom's third wife and is already a divorcee. They have been married for eight years.

She has played a prominent role in Alvaro Colom's presidency, supervising the government's poverty relief programmes.

When she confirmed the news of the divorce last week, Ms Torres said the decision, which will force the first couple to live apart, was "very difficult".

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