GUATEMALA CITY – Former first lady and presidential candidate Sandra Torres was arrested on Monday for violating election finance laws and on conspiracy charges, Guatemalan prosecutors said.
Torres, a one-time owner of a textile business, is the ex-wife of Alvaro Colom, who served as Guatemala’s president from 2008 to 2011.
The former first lady was arrested at her residence in a district on the highway to El Salvador and taken to the court complex in Guatemala City’s civic center, prosecutors said.
The 63-year-old Torres, of the social-democratic National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, lost the Aug. 11 presidential run-off election to Alejandro Giammattei, of the Vamos party.
The Attorney General’s Office said in a brief statement that a judge had issued an arrest warrant for Torres last Friday for crimes involving “unregistered election finance and criminal conspiracy.”
The former first lady, surrounded by police officers and mobbed by journalists, did not comment on her case, saying only, “You’re taking away my air. I’m going to faint.”
On Aug. 16, shortly after the presidential run-off election, the former first lady handed over her passport to court officers even though she has always denied committing any crimes and contends the allegations are political persecution.
The Supreme Court ruled in February against the AG’s office, saying that Torres should not be stripped of her right to run for office.
In May, however, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling in favor of prosecutors and the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which had appealed the Supreme Court decision.
The CICIG, whose objectives include probing the existence of illicit security forces and clandestine organizations that commit crimes affecting the basic rights of citizens, has dismantled numerous criminal structures in Guatemala since April 2015.
On Aug. 9, the AG’s office said it would take legal action to have the UNE stripped of its right to compete in elections if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal did not start probing campaign finance violations in the 2015 presidential election that Torres lost to current President Jimmy Morales.
Investigators determined that the UNE did not report some 27.6 million quetzales ($3.58 million) in campaign funds to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
President-elect Giammattei promised during the campaign that if he won the election, his administration would prosecute the former first lady.
“I’m going to give you a reason to go out and vote. People of Guatemala, vote for Alejandro Giammattei. If you vote for Alejandro Giammattei, I’m going to do everything in my power to put Mrs. Sandra Torres in jail,” the president-elect said.
A day after winning the presidential election, Giammattei requested that authorities bar Torres from leaving the country.