Updated 1 year, 6 months ago

Rate (or is that hate?) my president

These could be seen as worrying times for a host of Latin American presidents and their associated governments. That's if the latest opinion polls are to be believed; and as ever, such indicators have to be treated with caution.

However, the approval ratings of personalities and administrations from Argentina to Mexico and in plenty of states in between appear to reflect much disillusionment among the region's electorate.

In some quarters, this is being highlighted as a backlash against successive leftist governments. In Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela this certainly seems to be the case.

With only months to go before she must vacate office after serving the maximum two terms, Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is the quintessential lame duck leader and her poor showing in the polls may have much to do with that. She's had her difficulties though, too. The economy is floundering for one. Plus she faced protests over the suspicious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found with a bullet in his head just hours before he was to testify before congress that the president had allegedly conspired with Iran to cover up the deadly bombing of a Jewish community centre in 1996.

Brazil's head Dilma Rousseff has found it hard — even though she's been cleared by prosecutors — to put distance between herself and a massive corruption scandal at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras that was ongoing when she was its president.

Throw in the fact that the Brazilian economy has been waning significantly with the unemployment figure set to almost double this year compared to 2014 and there's little wonder why 65 per cent of the nation's voters labelled her stewardship as a 'failure' in a recent poll. Only 10 per cent of those surveyed consider Brazil's government to be 'great' or 'good'.

Venezuela's numerous woes have been well documented and this is reflected in approval ratings of less than 30 per cent for incumbent president Nicolás Maduro, much lower than what his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, used to enjoy.

While Chile's centre-left president Michelle Bachelet might be seen in a slightly different political light to the above, her current performance, nonetheless, still appears to leave plenty to be desired for many Chileans, with approval figures coming in at the low 30s. A loan scandal involving her son in a country viewed as one of the least corrupt in South America is cited as a big reason for this.

But it's far from all bad news for leaders from the left in Latin America. Ecuador's Rafael Correa is one of the most popular presidents on the planet, regularly getting satisfaction ratings in the high 70s and into the 80s. A large reason for this is his economic prowess. Unlike others in the region, he has been able to channel much of the country's oil revenues into areas where they are needed most. This has enabled the government to continue with its poverty reduction programmes as well investing in necessary infrastructural projects, to name but two.

Further south, Evo Morales in Bolivia also scores high on approval, frequently receiving in the region of 70 percentage points.

And while it's early days for Uruguay's Tabaré Vázquez, back in for his second term after serving from 2005 to 2010, the signs are that he will enjoy similar popularity to the man he replaces, the refreshingly eccentric José Mujica.

On the other side of the political spectrum — bearing in mind such a thing manifests itself differently from country to country — things aren't much clearer either.

Colombia's centre-right head of state Juan Manuel Santos is polling approval ratings as low as 29 per cent. Given the country's electoral conservatism, this is more than likely a sign that many are losing confidence in the Santos administration's ongoing peace talks with leftist guerrillas aimed at ending over 50 years of internal conflict. That is to say, there's likely to be a swing further right among the electorate rather than a move to the left, especially as there has been no lasting, meaningful ceasefire as the peace negotiations drag on.

Meanwhile in Mexico, satisfaction with the centrist president Enrique Peña Nieto is hovering around the 40 per cent mark, down from close to 50 last year. Similar to other heads in the region, a whiff of corruption is following Nieto around; in this case it's related to his personal finances.

Of course opinion polls and approval ratings are just snapshots in time; the actual elections are where things count. But that politics in general here may be in a state of flux, well what a surprise that is.

LatinAmerican Post |