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Moreno’s approval rating tumbles as popular concern grows over border violence

According to a new poll, President Lenin Moreno’s job approval rating has dropped almost 30 percent a year after he took office. In a polling conducted two weeks ago, the Cedatos / Gallup organization shows the president’s popularity at 45.5 percent, down from a sky high 77 percent shortly after his election in 2017.

President Lenin Moreno

Much of the drop, according to poll takers, can be attributed to public worries about drug trafficking violence on Ecuador’s northwestern border with Colombia. By an overwhelming 88.4 percent, Ecuadorians say they are “very concerned” about the border situation that has led to the deaths of four marines and three journalists in recent weeks. Only 22 percent say the government is handling the situation effectively.

Other factors also contribute to Moreno’s decline, experts say, including a slow economic recovery and general weariness over corruption scandals.

“There is the perception that the government has not handled the border situation very well,” says Rafael Cordova, a Quito political analyst and adjunct economics professor at the University of San Francisco. “The communication from the government to the public was very poor in the kidnapping and murders of the El Comercio journalists, and some information was withheld for reasons that seem inexplicable. Although Moreno has limited control over much of what is happening in the broder region — it is mostly spill-over from Colombia — he has appeared indecisive to the Ecuadorian public.”

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Credit: Cedatos

Another factor in the president’s falling popularity, Cordova says, is the perception that Moreno has relied too much on criticizing former president Rafael Correa. “This strategy worked for most of 2017 and gave him a victory in the national referendum, but it wears thin today. Now, people see this as Moreno’s government and Moreno’s economy and they see few visible signs of improvement over the last three or four years of the Correa administration.”

Cordova says it’s too early to make political forecasts for the 2021 presidential election but says next year’s local elections will be telling. “At the moment, the center-right and the supporters of [Guillermo] Lasso appear most likely to benefit from Moreno’s troubles but we will wait to see how this plays out. We’re a long way from the elections.”