To read international press reports, you might think President Rafael Correa is on the verge of being thrown out of office by popular uprising. Ecuador has faced months of protests by business, indigenous, student and labor groups, all critical of government policies
In addition, Correa faces an economy battered by low oil prices and an appreciating U.S. dollar, which makes the country’s exports more expensive. Last week, he admitted that growth will be flat for 2015 and could even dip into negative territory.
If that’s not enough, he is preparing for the possible eruption of one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes and an in-coming El Niño weather system that could wreak havoc on Ecuador’s Pacific coast.
In spite of everything, Correa’s popularity is on the rise. Although his numbers, taken by such polling organizations as Cedatos – Gallup have fallen from their highs of three or four years ago, Correa remains one of the three most popular presidents in Latin America.
The latest Cedatos polling shows the president with a 52% approval rating, up from 45% in June and July. By contrast, presidents of Mexico, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Argentina are polling between 14% and 28%.
“In many respects, Correa is Latin America’s ‘teflon man,’” says Florida International University researcher Pablo Haskins. “In a country where no president has stayed in office for more than two years over the past 16 years, Correa has managed to last almost nine and continues to enjoy surprising support,” says Haskins.
“After many years of stagnation, Ecuadorians have seen positive changes under Correa, and even though many people disagree with his policies, they appreciate the stability he has brought to the country,” Haskins says. He adds that much of Correa’s popularity is due to tangible improvements in the country’s infrastructure and social programs. “People can see the new highways and schools, and many poor people are making a better living than before, and they give him credit for this.”
Haskins notes that although Correa’s disapproval is high, the opposition in Ecuador is divided along ideological lines and is unable to come together to present a coherent alternative.