President Alan García calls for “trust and serenity” after his approval rating plummets to 19 percent

Peru President Alan García defended his administration Sunday and called for more “trust and serenity” after a nationwide poll gave him failing marks across the board, casting his approval rating down to 19 percent — an all-time low since he took office in July 2006.

The poll, conducted by the Catholic University’s Institute of Public Opinion, was based on a Sept. 5-8 survey of 1,235 Peruvians, and had a margin of error of 2.77 percentage points.

“I ask for trust and serenity,” said García. “That no turbulence, due to rising oil prices (or) because of momentary hikes in food prices, disturb our set course … We must maintain our set course even though there is misunderstanding, complaining, even though we are accustomed to the greased pole that is difficult to climb,  even though we like to destroy what we have created.”

Peru “is getting closer to its grand objectives,” added García, who warned that he would not be pushed off course by “populism,” or “misunderstanding.”

Last month, when García’s 20.3 approval rate marked a nearly 12-point drop from May, he attributed the low rating to “unfair criticism,” and to people’s “impatience and sense of injustice” with the fact that “when one has a little more, dissatisfaction grows.”

That poll by Peru Market Research and Public Opinion Corporation, or CPI, showed that frustration with democracy, rising food prices, and a sense that Peru’s economic boom isn’t reaching the majority of its citizens have contributed to García’s all-time low approval rating.

In Lima and Callao, the poll shows, only 24 percent of residents approve of García’s politics.

“This allows us to say that now only 1 out of 4 residents in (Peru’s) capital and largest port, who were fundamental to (García’s) triumph at the ballot box (in 2006), now support him,” daily newspaper Peru.21 reported Monday.

Dissatisfaction with government policies no longer seems to be exclusive to Peru’s southern or Amazonian regions — where approval was registered at 7 and 16 percent respectively — as, on average, 69 percent of Peruvians are dissatisfied with García’s administation of democracy.

In August, indigenous rights groups carried out a more than week-long strike and occupation of Amazonian natural gas facilities to protest government decrees that indigenous rights groups contended were meant to promote unrestricted oil exploration while weakening their rights to control communal lands.

And in southern Peru, where one year ago a magnitude-8 earthquake killed hundreds and left thousands more homeless, residents marched to express their discontent with García’s administration, which has been dogged by constant delays in the reconstruction effort and widespread accusations of government mismanagement and profiteering.

Despite the unprecedented economic growth, poverty in Peru has fallen only slightly. And because the country’s earnings from mining, exports, and foreign investment have boosted wealth much faster than they have reduced poverty, the majority of the population — hit hard by rising global commodity prices for staples such as rice and oil — has seen little or no benefit from the newly-regained macro-economic stability.

More than 39 percent of the total population and two-thirds of the rural indigenous population live below the poverty line. And, according to Peru’s National Statistics and Information Institute, or INEI, in Peru’s poorest department of Huancavelica, the poverty rate climbed from 84 percent to 85 percent, state news agency Andina reported.

Growing support for opposition leaders such as Ollanta Humala, the leader of Peru’s left-leaning nationalist opposition party, have also contributed to García’s all-time low approval rating.

Support for Humala, who was defeated in a runoff vote in the June 2006 presidential election by García who adroitly painted him as a pawn of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has gone up to 26 percent. And, support for center right pro big business Lourdes Flores, the head of Unidad Nacional and former presidential candidate, has soared to 45 percent.

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