A new poll shows that public approval rating of the Colombian president has fallen to its lowest level since he took office in 2010, because of a strike by farmers and slight progress in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC).
According to the survey, the results of which was published on Wednesday, only 21 percent of those polled said they had a positive opinion of Juan Manuel Santos - down from 48 percent in a similar survey conducted at the end of June. The poll, which was carried out by Gallup between August 27 and September 2 on 1,200 people in the five largest urban areas of Colombia, also indicated that 72 percent of those surveyed had a negative image of Santos, compared with 44 percent in June. The poll was conducted amid a two-week strike by Colombian farmers, during which riot police wearing armor confronted workers dressed in ponchos. However, the 62-year-old president during the early days of the strike said that it was non-existent and that everything was normal. Farmers complain that due to free trade accords with the United States and Europe, it is impossible for them to compete with imports, which they say are now less expensive. Slowing economic growth and social problems, including poverty and unemployment, especially in rural areas where some communities back FARC, have also damaged the popularity of Santos. He maintained decent approval ratings through the beginning of peace talks with the FARC rebels. Talks between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government kicked off in Cuba in November 2012. The talks recess and resume every few weeks as clashes between the two sides continue. Although the details of the talks have not been made public, many in Colombia are worried that Santos has offered too many concessions to the FARC leadership. The rebels continue to kill Colombian soldiers and attack oil and mining installations, exerting more pressure on Bogota to strike a deal. FARC is Latin America’s oldest insurgent group and has been fighting the government since 1964.