Paraguayan president's popularity plummets amid Brazil-linked political crisis

Paraguay's President Mario Abdo Benitez gestures as he meets supporters in Asuncion, Paraguay, August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Paraguay’s president, Mario Abdo, has reached his first year in office with a 69 percent disapproval rating amid an enduring political crisis and a significant economic slowdown, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

Abdo, who was elected by the conservative Colorado Party in April 2018 with 46 percent of the vote, narrowly avoided an impeachment vote at the start of the month over the signing of an energy pact with Brazil that opposition lawmakers said went against the country’s sovereignty.

Abdo canceled and apologized for the deal, which related to the giant Itaipu hydroelectric plant that straddles the two countries and would have cost Paraguay around $200 million. He enjoys a close relationship with far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Opposition parties have called for public protests to put further pressure on Abdo’s government, which is also grappling with an economic slowdown caused by a fall in agricultural production and global financial turbulence.

The survey, published by the newspaper Ultima Hora, found that 69.3 percent of respondents among the 1,200 people polled thought the president’s management was “bad or very bad,” compared with 30.7 percent who considered it “good or very good.” For respondents who declared themselves members of the president’s party, the disapproval rating was 64.8 percent.

According to a survey by radio station Primero de Marzo, 54.9 percent of the respondents had qualified Abdo’s government as “bad or very bad.”

Reporting by Mariel Cristaldo; writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Leslie Adler