Sandra Torres (politician)
|Secretary-General of the National Unity of Hope|
|First Lady of Guatemala|
|Born||Sandra Julieta 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 a Guatemalan politician who was the First Lady of Guatemala from 2008 to 2011, as the wife of President Álvaro Colom Caballeros. She is 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.
She was disqualified from being a candidate in the 2011 Presidential election, but in the Presidential election of 2015 she was accepted as a candidate and finished second in the first round of the election on 6 September, narrowly beating the third-placed Manuel Baldizón, and qualifying for the runoff against first-placed Jimmy Morales.
Life and career
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 her political party - the National Unity of Hope (UNE) - (of which her former husband is the Leader and 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 (National 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 was reflected within the corporate area. Sandra Torres, as a businessperson, worked at private companies and had been responsible for textile production and administration of clothing factories. In her role as first lady to President Colom, Torres took over crucial parts of the government over which she should have had no power according to the Constitution. Former government members who have left office have claimed that she approved or rejected any action of relative importance and that she deliberately managed every single government budget in order to transfer funds to her programs. In Colom's term, millions of dollars were 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 nomination for the UNE political party for the 2011 elections despite Constitutional article 186 which prohibits spouses of former presidents from doing so. The couple, then, sought a divorce in 2011 with the goal of freeing Torres to run for president. The divorce itself was challenged by political opponents. The Constitutional Court has 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 were 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 due to issues related to a constitutional banning and political interest. 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.
- Claudia Palma. Sandra Torres: mitad beliceña y mitad petenera. ElPeriódico de Guatemala, 18 de mayo de 2011.
- "Facebook". facebook.com.
- "Guatemala ex-first lady Sandra Torres in presidential run-off". BBC News.
- Juan Montes (15 September 2015). "Guatemalan Former First Lady Sandra Torres in Presidential Runoff". WSJ.
- "Guatemala Comic to Face Former First Lady in Presidency Run-off". VOA.