March 19, 2017 / 2:31 PM / 3 years ago

Peru president's popularity falls to 32 percent as rains wreak havoc

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s approval rating slipped 6 percentage points to 32 percent in an Ipsos poll taken while deadly downpours and flooding racked the Andean country, local daily El Comercio reported Sunday.

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski addresses a news conference with foreign media at the government palace in Lima, Peru, March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Support for Kuczynski had already been hurt by a massive graft scandal before torrential rains in the past week plunged about one-half of the country into a state of emergency.

The published poll did not show what Peruvians thought of Kuczynski’s handling of the severe flooding, which has killed more than 70 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes since the start of the rainy season.

But a majority of Peruvians do not feel that public safety, the economy, or the fight against corruption have improved during Kuczynski’s 8-month-old centrist government, the poll showed.

Kuczynski’s approval rating has dropped by half since peaking at 63 percent in September. He took office on July 28 promising to reduce inequality and ensure more people have access to running water and other basic services.

Kuczynski’s plans to bolster growth with new infrastructure have been delayed by a graft inquiry into Brazilian construction company Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] that has chilled investments and stalled public works projects.

The focus on the flooding and devastation to many communities may give Kuczynski a respite from political attacks.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have vowed to avoid clashes with the executive so the government can focus on emergency efforts.

Earlier this week, the opposition-ruled Congress canceled its scheduled questioning of the transportation minister over a controversial modification to an airport contract.

The Ipsos poll of 1,250 people was conducted March 15-17 and had a 2.8 percentage point margin of error.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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