Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

All in the family

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 15, 2011

by The EconomistAmericas View, March 15th, 2011.

As had been predicted for at least a year, Sandra Torres, Guatemala’s first lady, announced last week that she would seek to run in the country’s presidential election this September. Ms Torres has played a prominent role during the presidency of her husband, Álvaro Colom, heading the government’s anti-poverty programmes. Many say that behind the scenes she wields even greater influence over her mild-mannered spouse.

Before the election, the first lady faces a legal hurdle. Article 186 of Guatemala’s constitution bans relatives of the president from standing for office. “Relatives” is here defined as anyone who falls within the “fourth grade” of one’s own blood relatives—i.e., up to and including one’s cousins—and the “second grade” of one’s in-laws (up to grandparents and grandchildren). On first reading it is hard to see how Ms Torres could qualify. The decision will come down to the Constitutional Court, which is appointed by a complex three-part electoral college that many fear is open to nobbling.

Opinion polls suggest that even if Ms Torres manages to make it onto the ballot, she faces stiff competition from Otto Pérez Molina, a former general who now leads the right-wing Patriot Party. He promises a crackdown on the organised crime and corruption that has come to stalk Guatemala, where the murder rate has doubled since 2000. Althouhg Mr Pérez lost the 2007 election to Mr Colom, he is currently polling 43%, against Ms Torres’s 11%. (continue reading… )


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