Juan Manuel Santos celebrated his second anniversary as President of the Republic of Colombia on Tuesday while approval ratings plummet to an all-time low.
According to a published Tuesday poll by news cast CM&, Santos’ approval ratings have fallen from 83% in November to 67% this week.
The CM& poll is relatively optimistic about Santos’ popularity compared to two other polls published over the past week and a half that put his approval rating at 47% and 44%, in both cases below his disapproval rating.
According to all polls, Colombians are increasingly concerned about the security situation in the country and disagree how the president handles rebel groups, neo-paramilitaries, drug gangs and urban gangs.
Santos has defended his criticized security policies in several mid-term interviews but acknowledged that there has been increased rebel attacks.
“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,” he told the BBC Tuesday. “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.”
After taking office, Santos said he was willing to open peace talks with Colombia’s biggest guerrilla group the FARC under certain conditions, marking a direct change to ex-president Alvaro Uribe’s policies. Consequently, Uribe and Santos have fallen out with Uribe aggressively criticizing the current president ever since.
“I’m not going to fight with president Uribe. The extreme right and the extreme left are my enemies,” Santos said at a press conference to celebrate his anniversary.
Santos said he expected his four-year term to be challenging. “It has been difficult. But I was aware it would be that way,” Santos told the BBC.
Despite a worsening security situation, Colombia continues to see strong economic performances with growth averaging around 5% and inflation kept low.
Under Santos’ presidency, Colombia attracted $13.2 billion in direct foreign investment in 2011. More than two million new jobs were created and 1.2 million Colombians have risen out of poverty, according to government figures.
“[It] is quite an accomplishment. But maybe we haven’t been effective enough in explaining and showcasing our achievements,” Santos said.