After soaring to a 65 percent approval rating following the miner rescue, President Sebastian Piñera's rating is now at 30 percent as his country is riven by protests, riots, and other crises.
A year after Chile gained a boost of public confidence and national pride by rescuing 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground, the country is now wrought with political and social squabbles that are demolishing politicians' approval ratings.
The image of national unity, flag-waving, and people hugging in the streets has given way to grimmer imagery. Demonstrations by students, environmentalists, unionists, and indigenous activists have given rise to riots, with troublemakers tearing down streetlights, trashing banks, and even invading homes. Police, under pressure to halt the unrest, have launched hundreds of canisters of tear gas, deployed water cannons against thousands of marchers, and killed a bystander with what was supposed to be a warning shot.
President Sebastian Piñera has suffered the most from the unrest. After just scraping to an electoral win in late 2009, Mr. Piñera soared to a 65 percent approval following the miner rescue. At the end of last month, his approval had fallen to 30 percent, according to a nationwide poll by Santiago-based Adimark GfK. That is lower than any other president in the Americas, according to Mexican pollster Consulta Mitofsky.
IN PICTURES: Chile mine rescue
But Piñera's rivals aren't gaining from the national malaise either; the opposition has only 17 percent approval according to Adimark.
Officials close to Piñera say that the approval ratings will rebound once the student issues are resolved and the public sees his achievements, such as a new welfare program that pays the poorest families so long as children attend school and get medical checkups.
The mine rescue was unprecedented. After the San Jose gold and copper mine collapsed, the 33 men survived 17 days underground without any contact with the outside world. After initial contact by a drill with a 4-inch bit, they lived off rations and clothes lowered through such holes for another two months. Crews drilled an elevator shaft and, finally, lowered a rescue capsule to extract the workers one by one. It was the deepest rescue ever by drilling, and their 69-day ordeal was the longest that miners have ever survived before rescue.