Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday celebrated his first anniversary as President of the Republic of Colombia with approval ratings similar to when taking office on August 7, 2010.
The President, who took office after successfully campaigning for a continuation of his predecessor Alvaro Uribe‘s “democratic security” policy, but with more emphasis on prosperity and national unity, enjoys the approval of between 71% and 85% of Colombians, depending on the pollster.
The President succeeded in creating more unity, at least in Congress — his official coalition in parliament occupies approximately 80% in Congress and can count on an additional 10% owned by the pro-government but highly controversial PIN party.
However, Colombians are continuously worried about the security situation in the country after the increase of neo-paramilitary violence in cities like Medellin and Cali and northern departments like Cordoba and La Guajira and the apparently increased effectiveness of guerrilla groups of the FARC and ELN who have been carrying our frequent and deadly attacks in the southwestern departments of Nariño, Cauca and Caqueta and the eastern Arauca.
The un- and underemployment that are causing relatively high levels of poverty are alo worrying Colombians, despite lowering unemployment rates and hopeful prognostics regarding the country’s economy that say that Colombia’s GDP is expected to rise between 5% and 6.5% this year.
Santos’ most approved policy is that of foreign affairs in which he proved less ideological and more pragmatic than Uribe, who found himself increasingly isolated in Latin America, because of his conservative stance and verbally aggressive attitude towards leftist neighbors like Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
While visibly operating more independently from Colombia’s north American ally, Santos’ relation with the U.S. remained friendly and heavy lobbying and concessions made to improve labor rights and the protection of labor workers caused Washington to push a free trade pact with Colombia to Congress, four and a half years after signing it.
Judicial efforts to diminish corruption in Colombia worsened the relation with Santos and Uribe, who has seen several of his closest aides — including his chief of staff, former intelligence chief, a minister and his cousin — sent to jail over alleged corruption, ties to paramilitary groups and the illegal wiretapping of government opponents during the Uribe administration.