May 10 2011

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Guatemalan First Lady’s Divorce Creates Uproar

The divorce of Sandra Torres from President Alvaro Colom has been finalized. The divorce was granted by a family court in the country. She announced that she would seek divorce from her husband to become eligible to run in the upcoming September election for president. Under the Guatemalan constitution, “close relatives of the president, including spouses, are constitutionally barred from running for office.” By filing for divorce she will be effective able to run to succeed her husband. She stated that while she was “divorcing her husband…she was getting married to the Guatemalan people…” Critics call her actions political and filed petitions against the divorce. However, the divorce was granted. The court stated that it will leave the rest up to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal which administers elections for the country. Likewise, the quickness at which the divorce was granted has come into question. There were 600 petitions for divorce to be heard by the court before Sandra Torres filed that have still not been heard. Former legislatures who helped construct the constitution that bares the election of “close relatives” are seeking the impeachment of President Colom stating that he and his former wife are “conspiring to violate the constitution.”

Lawmaker: Bahrain Trying to Dissolve two Opposition Groups
Bahrain is seeking court action in the dissolution of the Wefaq and Al-Amai movements. The country has long been at odds with a Sunni government and a Shiite majority. The two Shiite groups have been the cause of recent protest against the government. The Bahraini government was resolved to having to seek support of Saudi Arabia to help control protests. While the US has not entered the conflict, Bahrain has long been a US ally. In fact, the Fifth Fleet is anchor there. Protesters are calling for the end of the royal family and the institution of a constitutional monarchy.

Algerian President Announces the Constitution will be Revised

Abdelaziz Bouteflaika of Algeria the aid of constitutional law experts in helping the country revises its constitution. The President says that “necessary changes must be made to the constitution in order to strengthen the democracy.” He also stressed the importance of human rights in the nation. Human Rights Watch states that the Algerian government has state owned broadcasting and limits on private newspapers. At the beginning of the year, the government lifted a two decade long state of emergency which lifted “restrictions on speech and assembly.” The declaration was declared to help the country combat an Islamic insurgency which had attempted to overtake the country during civil war. The war left 150,000 dead.

I found the correlation between these two articles to be very interesting. A constitution is one of the first steps necessary in laying a foundation in order for a nation to maintain peace and sovereignty. However, in Guatemala, the first couple is attempting to sidestep the federal constitution in the name of best serving the Guatemalan people. I believe such an action should be denounced by the international community. In the United Sates, when issues arise that challenge the constitution, the situation is present to a higher court hence the US Supreme Court. In the case of the first lady’s divorce petition, the issue was only hurt by a local court before the divorce was granted with no regard to the large implications. I find this to be ironic considering the fact that the nation of Algeria is implementing constitutional reforms in the sake of preserving the future interest of the country. One interest that the new constitution will seek to protect is human rights. However, in a sense, the Guatemalan first family is violating the rights of its people. Moreover, Bahrain is turning to its court system empowered by its constitution to dissolve opposition groups. I also view this as a miss use of power. While the opposition groups have created unrest in the nation, they should have the freedom of speech to demonstrate their discount with the royal family not be forced to submit to it do to a written declaration.

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