For years people have speculated that Bill and Hillary Clinton made some secretive deal to stay married for political purposes. Yesterday in Guatemala, the first couple announced they've split, but they aren't hiding their political motives.
President Alvaro Colom and First Lady Sandra Torres revealed that they divorced on March 11 so that she can run for the presidency without violating the country's law against family members of the President taking power. Reuters reports that the law was put into place in the 1980s when the country became a democracy after years of autocratic rulers. [top]
Torres, who is said to already have significant political power behind the scenes, said in a teary press conference that she will live apart from her husband, and the decision was "very difficult." She continued,
"I am getting a divorce from my husband, but I am getting married to the people ... I am not going to be the first or the last woman who decides to get a divorce, but I am the only woman to get a divorce for her country."
While Torres is casting herself as a martyr, politicians from the right-wing opposition party say she's trying to commit "electoral fraud." But it's unclear if she'll even be able to run. The law doesn't mention exes, so the Constitutional Court will have to determine if she still counts as a relative.
According to The Economist, Torres isn't the only questionable politician running for the presidency:
Álvaro Arzú, a former president, is campaigning despite a ban on re-election. Zury Ríos, a congresswoman, may be blocked by a prohibition on the relatives of the organisers of coups, since her father, Efraín Ríos Montt, toppled a government in 1982 and installed himself as dictator. Eduardo Suger, another possible candidate, was born in Switzerland and may not meet the requirement to be "Guatemalan in origin". "Ministers of religion" are forbidden from running too, which might spell problems for Harold Caballeros, the founder of a large evangelical church.
By comparison, the ridiculous dispute over President Obama's birth certificate doesn't seem so bad. There will probably be 14 candidates running, and Torres is believed to have a large amount of support in rural areas, which have benefitted from the social programs she directs.
Torres' comments about getting a divorce "for her country" are eye roll-inducing, but rhetoric aside, the question of her legitimacy can't be settled easily. On the one hand, it seems she is violating the intent of the law by trying to keep political power within her family. Even without Guatemala's history of dictatorial rule, Americans complained about the possibility of the presidency alternating between the Bush and Clinton political dynasties in 2008. Yet, if she's helping the country and not technically violating the law, it seems the people should at least have the option to vote for her.