THE mess faced by Mauricio Funes when he was elected president of El Salvador last year suggested he was in for a bumpy ride. Rampant gang violence produced the world’s highest murder rate in 2009. Amid the global financial crisis the economy shrank by 3.6%, one of the biggest drops in the region. El Salvador is not an easy place to govern. Yet 18 months later 79% of voters back Mr Funes, making him Latin America’s most popular leader.
His support does not come from any great success over crime or the economy. The murder rate dipped after Mr Funes ordered the army onto the streets and banned gang membership, but has since bounced back. And in the past year 5% of Salvadoreans suffered an extortion attempt, often orchestrated by mobile phone from prisons. Meanwhile the economy has barely limped back to growth. It is not expected to reach its pre-recession level until 2012 because of the country’s dependence on the United States, whose recovery has been weak.
My question for readers is why do you think Funes remains so popular?
- The Economist argues that Funes' "centrist approach has won over voters who had tired of El Salvador’s polarised politics."
- He's actually doing a really good job in managing the economy and public insecurity.
- He's not really doing a good job (most people think that the economy and public security situations have worsened), but he's doing better than expected.
- (Related to number 2) He's not really doing a good job, but he's doing better than any ARENA candidate would have done.