The Designation of AG Porras Might Impact Her Reelection
The designation of Attorney General Consuelo Porras to the Section 353 Undemocratic and Corrupt Actors List by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on September 20th, 2021 is an unprecedented event in the history of the relationship between Guatemala and the United States. She is the highest ranking officer designated so far. At this time, the desperate measure might impact Porras’ reelection nomination. However, the direct effect is confusing.
In February 2016, the Attorney General’s Law was modified, as requested by a wide coalition of civil society organizations, backed by the US and CICIG. The amendment raised the bar, establishing that basically only a court conviction could be cause for dismissal. The causes for removal of the Attorney General had been originally lax for good reasons, as it was the President’s prerogative. The United States designation of Porras to the Section 353 Undemocratic and Corrupt Actor List does not constitute a conviction; therefore, under the rules established by civil society in 2016, it is not sufficient cause for removal.
Porras is the Attorney General until mid-May 2022 , when her four year term expires. The untimely designation might hinder Porras’ reelection, as the Guatemalan Constitution requires candidates to enjoy good reputation or social standing (strictly speaking, recognized honorability). Without a doubt, the designation affects her reputation, particularly around Foggy Bottom. Despite her questionable decisions, Porras still enjoys her legal rights, including the presumption of innocence. Under this premise, she might run for reelection. The selection process of the Attorney General is set to begin soon, before December.
Now that she has been designated as an undemocratic and corrupt actor, what is she likely to do? The President can not dismiss her. It is up to her to decide the path forward. Should she resign or continue until her term expires? Should she seek reelection? It is confusing.
As the tumultuous relationship between Guatemala and the United States begins a new chapter after the designation of the highest ranking public officer to date, upon closer examination, it seems like the DOS decision was taken rather abruptly. The United States government is in its own right to do so. Like the Caesars of old, Uncle Sam can raise or lower its thumb, without explanation or reason. Of course. However, we can still appeal to reason. For the benefit of all, perhaps it is still not too late to privilege a profound and engaging diplomatic dialogue over abrupt exemplary measures.