Sandra Torres (politician)
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2010)|
|Sandra Julieta Torres Casanova|
|Secretary General Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza|
|First Lady of Guatemala|
|Born||Sandra Torres Casanova
5 October 1955
Melchor de Mencos
|Political party||Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE)|
|Spouse(s)||Álvaro Colom (2003-2011)|
|Alma mater||Universidad de San Carlos
Universidad Rafael Landívar
Sandra Julieta Torres Casanova is the former First Lady of Guatemala. Along with her ex-husband, President Alvaro Colom Caballeros, she is of Guatemalan nationality, originally from the county of Melchor de Mencos, in the department of Petén. She has a degree in Communication Sciences from the University San Carlos de Guatemala and a Masters degree in Public Politics from the University Rafael Landívar de Guatemala.
Her mother language is Spanish. She also speaks English and is currently studying K'iche', one of the predominant Mayan languages in Guatemala. She has spent most of her professional lifetime promoting politics, plans, programs, projects and laws concerning social development, specially of women, children and people with special needs. Within the legal initiatives that she has promoted from inside the political party Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) (in which she is also a director) are:
- Initiative of Law Against Feminicide. Approved in the first semester of 2008.
- Initiative of Law of Responsible Parenting. Approved in August 2008.
Sandra Torres de Colom was founder of the Coordinadora Nacional de la Mujer (Nacional Coordinator of the Women) for the political party Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza, through which more than 30,000 Guatemalan women (Garifuna and Xinca amongst them) have channeled their specific demands. The action in favor of women has been reflected within the corporate area. Sandra Torres, as a businessperson, has worked at private companies and been responsible for textile production and administration of clothing factories. In her role as first lady, Torres has taken over crucial parts of the government which she should have no power over according to the Constitution. Former government members who have left office have claimed that she approves or rejects any action of relative importance and that she deliberately manages every single government budget in order to transfer funds to her programs. In Colom's term, millions of dollars have been transferred over from education, health, defense and homeland security budgets used to promote the fight against poverty
She also was president of Consejo de Cohesión Social (Counsel of Social Cohesion), an institute in charge of orienting social investment for the eradication of extreme poverty and combating poverty in general. The group employs programs and projects focused on improving the coverage and quality of education, healthcare, infrastructure, sustainability and national reconstruction (specifically pertaining to the disasters Hurricane Stan, landslides in the county of La Unión, Zacapa, and Storm 16).
On March 8, 2011, Sandra Torres de Colom publicly accepted to be the presidential nominee for the UNE political party for the upcoming 2011 elections despite Constitutional article 186 which prohibits her from doing so. The Constitutional Court will have the last word in the interpretation of the Constitutional article, even though the article gives no room for interpretation. However, within the newly appointed magistrates of the Constitutional court there are at least four who have had a close relationship with Colom and Torres; one of them is even a former attorney of Torres. This confirmed political experts' predictions that the election of the Court would be done in an obscure way that would benefit Torres.
In the event that the magistrates ruled against Torres, there had been rumors that the presidential couple would bypass the constitutional impediment by filing for divorce. This became a reality on March 21, 2011, when it was known that President Colom and First Lady Torres had already filed for divorce on March 11. This was initially denied by Torres and other UNE party members, but opposition members maintained their position claiming the divorce was a reality. President Colom even went to say that to file for divorce for political purposes was immoral.
On June 30, 2011, Guatemala's Supreme Court Of Justice ruled out the candidacy for president by a 12-1 vote, the Supreme Court Of Justice ruled out the candidacy for president due to issues related to a constitutional banning and political interest form the Court. Days later the Guatemala´s Constitutional Court proceed to call for a public view to review arguments of ex-First Lady Torres and counterpart Adela de Torrebiarte presidential candidate for the party ADN (National Development Action) who was opposing the candidacy of Torres claiming intent to bend the law and to prevent infrigment of a constitutional article banning relatives of the president to run for presidency even knowing that Torres didn't have a blood relation and was already divorced, 5 days later on August 8, 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled out definitively the candidacy for president of Torres by a vote of 7-0.
Ms. Torres helped run her husband’s campaign and shaped policy during his presidency, including expansive and controversial social programs that raised the living standards of the Guatemalan poor by providing them access to health and education. She turned down many trips to foreign countries to stay home, where she felt she was needed.
“I was a campaign manager in Álvaro's campaigns but had to keep a low profile because I was his wife,” she said. “I wasn’t a conventional first lady, and I was criticized for that, for instead being a woman who wanted to change the country.”
Politics, Ms. Torres said, is very different in Guatemala. There are many parties, and candidates switch parties often or form their own—the National Unity of Hope party, of which Ms. Torres is a founder and member, has only been around since 2002. But there are similarities as well, especially regarding strategy, Dr. Rehr said. Ms. Torres knows the demographics of her supporters—women, rural-based and younger voters. And she has a plan.
- Claudia Palma. Sandra Torres: mitad beliceña y mitad petenera. ElPeriódico de Guatemala, 18 de mayo de 2011.