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Court orders halt to Guatemalan 1st lady's divorce proceedings
[April 02, 2011]

Court orders halt to Guatemalan 1st lady's divorce proceedings

Guatemala City, Apr 2, 2011 (EFE via COMTEX) -- A court has ordered a halt to the Guatemalan presidential couple's divorce proceedings, which they filed to enable first lady Sandra Torres to run for her nation's highest office, officials said Saturday.

A Supreme Court spokesman told reporters that a civil court has given initial approval to a petition filed by a group of university students who want the divorce stopped.

They have argued that the divorce is a cynical ploy to get around a constitutional ban on close relatives of the president running for the top office.

President Alvaro Colom and Torres submitted their request for divorce by mutual consent on March 11 so that the latter can compete in the September general elections. Guatemalan courts ordinarily have less than a month to rule on such divorce filings.

A final ruling on whether to accept the petition is due to be handed down in the coming hours, but in the meantime the divorce proceedings have been suspended, the spokesman said.

The family court judge hearing the presidential couple's request, Mildred Roca, said Friday that she planned to notify Torres and Colom early next week of her decision.

Of the more than seven petitions filed by representatives of different sectors to halt the presidential couple's divorce plans, the one from the university students is the only one to be given an initial hearing thus far.

The court's decision came after Judge Roca denounced Friday that she had received anonymous threats from an individual claiming to be a member of a "group defending the constitution." She was warned that a member of her family would be killed if she issued a ruling granting the divorce.

The Supreme Court responded by ordering tighter security for the judge and instructing prosecutors to launch an investigation to determine who was behind the threats.

The couple's decision to file for divorce has sparked a storm of criticism from conservative sectors of Guatemalan society, opposition leaders and jurists, who have unsuccessfully filed petitions against the move.

Despite the constitutional impediment, Torres announced on March 8 that she planned to run for president as candidate of a coalition of the governing UNE party and the Great National Alliance. EFE ca/mc

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