Colombians give low scores to Santos
President's approval rating drops as he reaches halfway point of his term
With record-low approval ratings, despite his successes in dealing severe blows to insurgent groups, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday marked his second year in office with many citizens disgruntled over high unemployment and rising crime rates.
Two important polls released less than a week from each other show how unhappy Colombians are with the Santos administration halfway through the president's current term. In just one year, his approval rating has dropped by 24 points to 47 percent, according to the Colombia Opina poll conducted by the Great Media Alliance. At the beginning of his term, President Santos' approval rating topped 80 percent.
In another survey, pollster Datesco says 49 percent of Colombians disapprove of Santos' handling of the economy and other matters.
Colombians appeared to overlook the success the Santos government has had in fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In the past two years, 18 FARC guerrilla leaders have been captured or killed. Among them are Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas, better known as "Alfonso Cano," and Víctor Julio Suárez Rojas, also known as "Mono Jojoy."
In an interview Tuesday with the BBC, Santos acknowledged there had been a surge in attacks by the FARC in recent months.
"It has a lot to do with us finally having a presence in places that had been under guerrilla control for the past 40, 45 years. So that generates a series of reactions that, in turn, make people feel less safe. But if we look at the specific indicators, such as murders per 100,000 inhabitants, we have the lowest figures of the last 30 years."
Santos said that from the outset he knew he would be facing challenges, including voter disapproval of some of his actions.
"It has been difficult. But I was aware it would be that way," he said.
One of Santos's goals has been to try to open peace talks - under certain conditions - with the FARC, which has put him in direct conflict with his predecessor and former friend, Álvaro Uribe.
The former president has accused Santos of going soft on terrorism, and criticized his friendly dealings with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
"I'm not going to fight with President Uribe. The extreme right and the extreme left are my enemies," the president said Tuesday during Army Day, which celebrated the 193rd anniversary of the Battle of Puente de Boyacá.