Support wanes for Colombia's Santos, despite GDP growth

President Santos has fostered a strong economy, but his lagging popularity can be tied to national protests in the farming sector and drawn-out peace talks with FARC rebels.

Jose Miguel Gomez/Reuters
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a campaign rally in Bogota April 28, 2014.

With only four weeks remaining before Colombia’s general election, support for President Juan Manuel Santos is fading fast, says our correspondent in Medellín.

Despite economic indicators showing a strong economy – the Central Bank on Friday raised its policy rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent in a move to prevent inflation in the face of a surging economy – the president lost ground to rivals in the latest polls.

“It’ll take more than strong economic indicators to make Santos popular again – he’s really on the wane,” says our correspondent. “However, it’ll take a lot more than what we’re seeing currently from his competitors for him to lose the election.”

Only 23 percent of respondents to a weekly survey by Ipsos Napoleón Franco say they will vote for President Santos. Setbacks for the president have included national protests last year in the farm sector as well as a slowdown in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, according to the poll. Santos has initiated free-trade agreements with the United States and European Union at the alleged expense of Colombian farmers, while also prioritizing drawn-out peace talks with the FARC that are now in their 17th month of negotiations in Cuba.

That’s allowed a late surge from challengers including former Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who is polling at 15 percent, and former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, who is polling at 11 percent. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on May 25, then the election heads to a second-round runoff between the top two finishers.

But the economy is moving in favor of Santos.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.

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