Guatemala's Alvaro Colom to divorce wife Sandra Torres

Guatemalan first lady Sandra Torres de Colom waving to supporters after announcing her candidacy Ms Torres wants to be Guatemala's first woman president

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Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and his wife Sandra Torres have filed for divorce so she can stand for election to succeed him, officials say.

Ms Torres announced she would be the governing party candidate in September's presidential election earlier this month.

But Guatemala's constitution bans close relatives of the president from standing to succeed him.

Court officials confirmed a petition for divorce had been submitted.

"The request for divorce by mutual consent was presented on 11 March to a judge at the second family court," Supreme Court spokesman Edwin Escobar said.

'Fraud'

Neither Ms Torres nor President Colom have commented on the divorce petition.

The main opposition candidate - Otto Perez Molina of the right-wing Patriot Party - accused the couple of seeking to defraud the system.

But he insisted a divorce would not be enough to overcome the constitutional ban on close relatives of the president standing to succeed him.

The final say on whether Ms Torres can stand will rest with Guatemala's Constitutional Court.

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

Critics have alleged that she wields even more power over her husband behind the scenes.

If she is allowed onto the ballot, she will face strong competition from Mr Perez Molina, a former general who has been riding high in opinion polls with his promise of a hard line against violent organised crime.

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