The sampling of voter opinion taken from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 by the respected Gallup Colombia poll found Santos’ favorable rating at the lowest level since he took office in August 2010. The rating, which was down from 48% in June, was also the lowest of any Colombian president in a decade.
Santos is expected to seek reelection. Although his popularity is at an ebb, political analysts still see his chances of reelection next May as good because no dominant opposition candidate has stepped forward.
Among the current woes he faces: Transportation is at a standstill in areas of seven departments, or states, including Huila and Cauca, as coffee growers and other farmers block main highways. They seek government subsidies to offset low coffee prices that they say don’t cover their expenses. The farmers began their strike Aug. 19.
A comment by Santos late last month in which he denied there was an agricultural strike in Colombia enraged farmers and cost him in public perception, analysts say. The government has blamed violent incidents on rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the rebel group with which peace talks have stalled.
Recently, the government has reached agreements with striking truck drivers, farmers in Boyaca state and peasant groups in North Santander department.
But mass demonstrations and strikes have become common in Colombia over the last two years as various interest groups have taken to the streets, including indigenous communities, truck drivers, sugar cane cutters and coal miners seeking better working conditions and government support.
Communities surrounding oil fields frequently have blocked roads to protest pollution, truck traffic and the lack of positive local economic impact of the recent boom in oil production, slowing the country’s oil output growth.
Gallup’s Colombia chief, Jorge Londono, told El Tiempo newspaper said Santos is suffering from public discontent over his handling of health, education, public security and high costs of living, in addition to the farmers’ strike.
Kraul is a special correspondent.