Guatemala presidential frontrunner to keep same-sex marriage illegal and run country with ‘fear of God’

Guatemalan presidential candidate Sandra Torres

Guatemalan presidential candidate Sandra Torres has said she will never accept same-sex marriage, while speaking at a recent campaign rally.

The former first lady voiced her opposition to same-sex marriage during a campaign stop at a school in San Juan Sacatepequez, before adding that she isn’t homophobic.

She also told attendees that she wanted the government to respect life at conception and wanted to run the country “with the fear of God”, AP reported.

Torres, who leads the National Unity of Hope party, has moved sharply to the right in recent months. The National Unity of Hope party is the second-largest in the unicameral legislature, and Torres was the leading choice for president – receiving a vote share of 16 per cent – in the first round of voting on 25 June.

She is widely considered to be the continuity candidate for the political establishment.

In her third bid to become Guatemalan president, the 67-year-old has drafted in a right-wing evangelical pastor as her running mate, reinforced commitments to keep abortion illegal in the country, and widely opposed the LGBTQ+ community.

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It is believed that this could be an attempt to appease the country’s evangelical churches, which may support Torres in the hope of continuing their close relationship with government.

Torres’ rightward shift is clear compared to the administration of her ex-husband, Álvaro Colom, and has been attributed to the rise of conservative populism in Guatemala.

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Her party used to be considered the Central American country’s social democratic party but has since shifted to the right along with Torres.

Torres’ main opponent, Seed Movement candidate Bernardo Arévalo, said he would uphold the country’s abortion ban but has declined to make a declaration on same-sex marriage, saying he would be against any sort of discrimination.

His party’s campaign has been built on a vow to root out corruption, and despite polling below 3 per cent before the first round of voting for the 2023 presidential election, he received 11.8 per cent of the vote after the results were counted.

An Equality Index by the community-driven LGBTQ+ rights website Equaldex has placed Guatemala 67th out of 197 countries.

While same-sex marriage is not explicitly banned, Article 78 of the country’s civil code defines marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.

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