Guatemala City: The Guatemalan courts have approved the divorce of President Alvaro Colom and First Lady Sandra Torres, opening the way for her to run for President in September, a judge said on Saturday.

Fifteen legal challenges were filed attempting to block the divorce, but they were rejected by the courts.

Family Court Judge Midred Roca who presided over the divorce proceedings said, "They are legally divorced.”

The decision to divorce by mutual consent between Colom and Torres raised a wave of criticism by opponents who called it a cynical attempt to circumvent a constitutional ban on a President being succeeded by his or her spouse.

Torres, who is supported by an alliance of the governing National Unity of Hope (UNE) party and the right-wing Grand National Alliance (GANA), said last month that she was divorcing despite her love for her husband.

"The love for Guatemala is the reason why the President and I put the interests of the country ahead of our own interests," said Torres.

Torres shed tears as she described the "great and solid love" she felt for her husband, but said that her love for the people was "limitless."

Criticism has been that the move mocks the constitution, but the couple dismiss the critics as politicians and business interests opposed to the government's social reforms.