San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias a Popular Fellow in Costa Rica

President Oscar Arias is more popular now than at any other point during his term, according to the polling firm Unimer.

Some 50% of respondents said Arias is doing a good or very good job, while 14% called his performance bad or very bad.

The figures, reported Tuesday by the daily La Nación, which sponsored the survey, are based on 1,200 interviews conducted throughout the country March 8-15.

Of the last five presidents, Arias has the highest midterm approval rating. The runner- up is Rafael Angel Calderón Jr. (1990-94), with 38% approval.

Arias, who took office in May 2006, saw his popularity reach a low point in September, when he had 42% approval and 20% disapproval.He drew fire then for pushing the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which was passed by referendum in October.

Approval ratings for Arias cabinet have also increased since a low point in September.

Some 36% of respondents said the cabinet was doing a good or very good job, while 22% percent said it was doing a bad or very bad job.

Lawmakers, by contrast, have watched their popularity plummet. Approval ratings for the Legislative Assembly dropped to just 23% this month from 40% in August 2006, while disapproval rose to 38% from 29% during the same period.

The Citizen Action Party (PAC) appears to bear some of the blame. In the past seven months, disapproval ratings for PAC have surged from 13% to 34%. The party has come under fire for filibustering bills required to implement CAFTA, which was approved by voters last fall.

Lawmakers from Arias National Liberation Party (PLN) have become more popular since August. Their approval ratings increased from 28% to 35%.

Still, Costa Ricans said the government is not helping everyone equally. Some 67% said the government favors certain sectors, up from 59% in August.

People are also more worried about safety and drugs. Some 20% of respondents said crime and violence were the country s biggest problems, up from 11% in August. Some 12% said Costa Rica/>/> s thorniest challenge was drug addiction, up from 6% in August.

Nearly a quarter of respondents were most worried about high cost of living. Some 28% said they cannot satisfy their basic needs.



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