San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Laura Chinchilla approaches the end of her term as the least popular leader in the Americas

President Laura Chinchilla has just over a month left in her troubled presidency and looks ready to leave office with the worst approval rating in the hemisphere and beyond.

Costa Rica’s first woman to reach the office of president garnered only a 16 percent approval rating as of January, according to Consulta Mitofsky, a Mexican consulting firm, which released its roundup of world leaders’ approval ratings on Tuesday. Chinchilla’s rating is the lowest of all 30 leaders from the Americas, Europe and Asia. The poll took place between January and March.

The Mexican company noted that the approval rating is not necessary a reflection of her actual governance but rather the public’s perception of it. Figures from Costa Rica were collected by CID Gallup, according to the report.

“I’ve won many battles but we lost the public relations battle miserably,” Chinchilla told the local newspaper La República in March during an interview looking back on her term in office.

Following the January poll that left her at the nadir of Latin American leaders, Chinchilla told Amelia Rueda that she regretted not being more effective at communicating “what her administration was about” to the public.  The president added that her government let others set the terms of the national conversation and that “any errors committed during our administration were the same that affect any other.”

Chinchilla’s term in office was plagued by allegations of corruption, graft and a scandal over accepting a flight on a private jet to Peru for her vice president’s son’s wedding. The State of the Nation report noted that 2013 saw higher-than-normal levels of social unrest as evidenced by increased public demonstrations. Besides scandals, her administration failed to pass a fiscal reform package that was a cornerstone of her presidential campaign.

Voter dissatisfaction with her administration weakened the National Liberation Party’s candidate for president, Johnny Araya, who suspended his campaign on March 5, citing a lack of campaign finances and a dismal showing in national polls.

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina topped the list with a nosebleed-high 90 percent approval rating. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa claimed 75 percent support, closely followed by Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes with 74 percent.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos saw the greatest improvement, soaring 25 percentage points since September 2013 to reach 50 percent approval.

Central Americans happier overall with their leaders

Several other Central American governments fared well in the list. The average approval rating on the isthmus was 54 percent, higher than any other region in the Western Hemisphere and just slightly lower than the 55 percent recorded in September 2013.

El Salvador’s outgoing President Mauricio Funes reported 67 percent support followed by Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli (65 percent) and Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina (56 percent).

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had 49 percent support and former-Honduran President Porfirio Lobo had 38 percent. Argentine President Cristina Fernández had just 25 percent and Peru’s President Ollanta Humala 24 percent.

U.S. President Barack Obama had a 43 percent approval rating as of March.

Only France’s President Francois Hollande (19 percent) and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (18 percent) fell close to Chinchilla’s rating.

Contact Zach Dyer at

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