Venezuelan President's approval rating falls to nine-month low

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro waits the arrival of Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos at Macagua Hydroelectric compound in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, August 11, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

CARACAS (Reuters) - - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s approval rating fell to a nine-month low of 21.2 percent in July amid calls from government critics for a recall referendum next year, according to a local pollster Datanalisis.

The poll of 1,000 people, conducted July 13-21, also showed more than three-quarters of those surveyed disapproved of Maduro’s tenure, while 93.6 percent saw the country’s situation negatively. Only 22.1 percent believed that Maduro should finish his term. Maduro’s three-year tenure has been marked by a severe deterioration in the country’s economy, with daily lootings and food riots due to shortages of the most basic goods. Triple-digit inflation, a collapse of the local currency on the black market and severe recession have added to the country’s woes.

The 53-year-old president blames the country’s crisis on an economic war waged by the opposition and Washington. On Friday, Maduro raised the country’s minimum wage 50 percent, making it equal to $23 a month at the black market exchange rate.

Thousands of Venezuelans streamed across the border with Colombia on the weekend to buy to buy food and other basics as the two countries’ borders were officially reopened after being closed by Venezuela a year ago.

The timing of the referendum over the president is critical because recalling Maduro in 2016 will trigger fresh elections, while a successful vote to remove him after Jan. 10, 2017 would mean the vice president would takeover as head of state for the remainder of the current term through early 2019. Maduro’s approval ratings hit their nadir in October at 21.1 percent, though they rose to 33.1 percent in February, according to Datanalisis figures. The poll had a margin of error of 3.04 percent.

Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Alan Crosby