November 8, 2019 / 2:37 PM / 10 days ago

Backing for Mexico's leader hits lowest ebb after security setbacks: poll

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Support for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has slipped to its lowest level since he took office nearly a year ago, dragged down by security lapses, a tracking poll showed on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds his daily news conference in Oaxaca, Mexico October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata/File Photo

The daily survey by polling firm Consulta Mitofsky showed Lopez Obrador’s approval rating at 59.8%, having suffered a progressive decline since the government’s abortive attempt to capture a son of kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on Oct. 17.

His administration received another blow this week when three women and six children from U.S.-Mexican families of Mormon origin were murdered by suspected cartel gunmen on an isolated dirt road in northern Mexico.

Seeking to dispel concerns, Lopez Obrador said on Friday the rollout of the National Guard, the militarized police force he created to oversee security, was still underway, and argued that much of Mexico was relatively free of homicidal violence.

“With these regrettable events, you might think the whole country’s like that,” he told a regular news conference, calling the problem “concentrated” in certain areas.

Seven out of Mexico’s 32 regions accounted for about half the murders registered through September, official data shows.

Still, a series of mass shootings in past weeks have eroded confidence in Lopez Obrador’s strategy to reduce record homicide levels.

That has weighed on support, and Friday’s poll reading was the lowest of his administration, said Roy Campos, head of Mitofsky.

Other polls give the president greater support.

Lopez Obrador, a veteran leftist, has pursued a less confrontational approach to restoring order after more than a decade of gang-fueled bloodletting that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in Mexico.

He has focused on tackling root causes of crime, such as poverty and joblessness, but murders have continued to climb.

Concern over law and order has taken center stage since the botched effort to arrest Ovidio Guzman, son of “El Chapo,” in the northern city of Culiacan last month.

The government ordered military police to free Ovidio to avoid bloodshed after cartel henchmen started gunfights in the city and threatened security officials and their families.

Meanwhile, the economy has stagnated as domestic investment has been chilled by some decisions made by Lopez Obrador, including his cancellation of a part-built $13 billion new airport for Mexico City weeks before he assumed the presidency.

Mitofsky began publishing its daily poll in April. Then, the firm said Lopez Obrador’s support stood at 67.8%, about five percentage points higher than when he took office in December.

The poll surveys 500 Mexicans with regular internet access, Campos said. It does not publish a margin of error.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jonathan Oatis

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