Álvaro Colom was one of the most prominent figures in the history of Guatemalan politics. He would go on to play an essential part in the rise of the country's largest political party. And he would reach the highest political office there is in Guatemala.

Colom has also been a subject of intense polarization. He would be accused of corruption and even arrested, along with the entirety of his Cabinet. The case has never gone to trial, and questions surrounding Colom's guilt or innocence could be left unanswered.

He died on January 23, 2023

Álvaro Colom has passed away.

According to Reuters, the cause of death was esophageal cancer. Current Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei was among the lawmakers to react to the news, notes the Los Angeles Times. Giammattei offered prayers along with condolences to Colom's family and friends.

Colom had run for president three times. The first occasion was in 1999. At the time, he ran under the banner of two political parties. Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca ('Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity') and Desarrollo Integral Autentico (Authentic Integral Development). That year, Colom would finish in a distant third place, behind that year's victor, Alfonso Portillo, and Oscar Berger.

By law, presidents of Guatemala are not allowed to run for another term in office.

As such, Portillo was not a candidate for re-election in 2003. In that year's race, Colom was running as the nominee of the new political party. That being Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (National Unity of Hope). In the years since the party has amassed the biggest membership tally in Guatemala. But in 2003, Colom would fall short of Portillo.

Colom would eventually prevail in 2007. Otto Perez Molina of Partido Patriota (Patriotic Party) was his closest rival. The current President of Guatemala, Giammattei, finished in the third spot. Rafael Espada was Colom's vice president.

As president, Colom expanded social programs and launched anti-corruption efforts. But he and his administration would face heavy scrutiny in a scandal centered on bus companies and tax breaks.

Colom and his colleagues were arrested, but he proclaimed his innocence. Closure may be elusive in this particular case following Colom's passing. But legal woes of varying degrees are not uncommon among Guatemalan presidents.

His uncle was a high-profile politician

One of five children, Álvaro Colom was a native of Guatemala City. His uncle, Manuel Colom Argueta, had been the city's mayor during the 1970s. After leaving office, he was assassinated. It was one of several assassinations of prominent politicians during the oppressive regime of President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia. Later, President Colom would name his uncle to the Order of the Quetzal posthumously. The order is the highest civilian honor in Guatemala.

Colom received a degree in industrial engineering from Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. He held several professional roles over the years, including serving as Guatemala's vice minister of the economy.