Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

Argentina’s Presidential Primaries

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, August 10, 2015
Daniel Scioli (R), governor of the Argentine province of Buenos Aires stands by Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner at the Casa Rosada Government House in Buenos Aires, February 11, 2015. Scioli, the front-running candidate for the ruling party ticket in Argentina's presidential election, has a new buzz word: "gradualismo", or "gradual change". It is hardly a slogan to set the campaign trail ablaze ahead of the October 25, 2015 election. Instead it illustrates the tightrope act he needs to pull off as he tries to win the support of outgoing leftist President Fernandez's loyalists while tapping a rich vein of undecided voters demanding change (Enrique Marcarian/Reuters). Daniel Scioli (R), governor of the Argentine province of Buenos Aires stands by Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner at the Casa Rosada Government House in Buenos Aires, February 11, 2015. Scioli, the front-running candidate for the ruling party ticket in Argentina's presidential election, has a new buzz word: "gradualismo", or "gradual change". It is hardly a slogan to set the campaign trail ablaze ahead of the October 25, 2015 election. Instead it illustrates the tightrope act he needs to pull off as he tries to win the support of outgoing leftist President Fernandez's loyalists while tapping a rich vein of undecided voters demanding change (Enrique Marcarian/Reuters).

In yesterday’s presidential primaries Daniel Scioli unsurprisingly won the Peronist Frente para la Victoria (FPV) party primary, backed by Cristina Kirchner, with 38 percent of the total vote. The Cambiemos coalition, dominated by the PRO party, nominated current Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri (30 percent). And Sergio Massa became the candidate for the UNA coalition, comprised of dissident Peronists (21 percent). On September 20, the three will begin their official campaigns for the October 25 presidential election (with a potential runoff on November 22). The results reflect a long holding Argentine maxim: when united the Peronists are impossible to beat. Read more »

Review of State Building in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Hillel Soifer, State Building in Latin America, state capacity Cambridge University Press, 2015

Hillel Soifer’s new book, State Building in Latin America, presents an interesting historical perspective on today’s current state capacity in Latin America, and why some countries are so much better able than others to not just control territory but also to deliver for their people. Read more »

The Case Against Rousseff’s Impeachment

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, July 30, 2015
Dilma Rousseff, Corruption, Petrobras, Lava Jato, Car Wash, Eduardo Cunha A vendor hangs shirts reading "Out, Dilma" during a protest against Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff in Sao Paulo April 12, 2015. Almost two thirds of Brazilians favor the impeachment of Rousseff over a corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras, but roughly as many doubt it would drive her from office, according to a poll released on Saturday (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters).

As President Dilma Rousseff’s polling numbers fall far into the single digits, the calls for her impeachment grow louder. In Congress, PMDB lower house head Eduardo Cunha has broken with Rousseff, intimating his support for her removal. On the streets protestors too call for a change, marching by the hundreds of thousands to express their anger and frustration. Read more »

Mexico’s Economic Divide

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Mexico, economic growth, Fondo Regional, development A woman asks for alms sitting on the sidewalk outside a coffee shop at Reforma Avenue in Mexico City December 16, 2014 (Henry Romero/Reuters).

Mexico’s national GDP numbers remain lackluster. In 2014, the country grew 2.1 percent, and forecasts for 2015 predict a modest 3 percent increase. Yet these numbers mask the great diversity within and between the nation’s thirty-two federal entities. Read more »

Infrastructure on Rousseff’s Agenda

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, June 25, 2015
Brazil, Infrastructure, Dilma Rousseff, Programa de Investimentos em Logística (PIL), 2016 Olympics, BNDES An aerial view of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games athletes village, which is under construction in Rio de Janeiro February 26, 2015. Rio de Janeiro must keep up the pace of delivery if it is to complete venues before scheduled Olympic test events as it enters "the most intense period of preparations," the IOC said on Wednesday (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters).

This is a guest post by Emilie Sweigart, an intern here at the Council on Foreign Relations who works with me in the Latin America Studies program.

Even as Brazil pushes forward austerity measures and entitlement reductions, the administration of President Dilma Rousseff is hoping to increase infrastructure investment. The recently announced Programa de Investimentos em Logística (PIL) would launch nearly R$200 billion (USD$64 billion) in concessions for rail (R$86.4 billion), roads (R$66.1 billion), ports (R$37.4 billion), and airports (R$8.5 billion). Roughly a third would be completed by 2018, when Rousseff will leave office. Read more »

The Cuban Renaissance: The Good, the Bad, and the Necessary

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, June 22, 2015
Raul Castro, Cuba, reform, U.S.-Cuba policy, paladar, Havana, people to people exchange (Courtesy Valerie Wirtschafter)

This is a guest post by Valerie Wirtschafter, a research associate with the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since December 17, 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations have become a constant fixture in the media. Yet this diplomatic thaw represents a culmination of reforms on the island, which accelerated when Raul Castro officially took office in 2008. Opening up to the world is not without trade-offs, and reform has already brought a combination of good, bad, and necessary change to the island and its people. Read more »

IMF High-Level Conference on Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Latin America, International Monetary Fund, economic growth (Courtesy International Monetary Fund)

Two weeks ago, I joined Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, Santiago Levy, vice president for sectors and knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank, Andrés Velasco, professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and Jose Viñals, financial counselor and director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on an engaging panel at the IMF’s High-Level Conference on Latin America. Read more »

Economic Clusters, Productivity, and Growth in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Alfred Marshall, Michael Porter, Queretaro aerospace, Chile salmon, Start-Up Chile, Clusters Workers places salmon carcasses into a box to be sent to the world market at the Acuinova Chile salmonera company located some 1,625 km south of Santiago March 5, 2009 (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters).

This post was co-authored by Gilberto Garcia, research associate for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

How can countries boost productivity and economic competitiveness? Many economists and business leaders turn to economic clusters as an answer. Read more »

Mexico’s Midterm Elections

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, June 8, 2015
Mexico, midterm elections, Enrique Peña Nieto, Jaime Rodriguez, El Bronco Jaime Rodriguez, independent candidate for governor of Nuevo Leon state, casts his ballot, during midterm elections in the town of Garcia, state of Nuevo Leon, June 7, 2015. Rodriguez, alias "El Bronco," would cause one of the biggest upsets in Mexican political history if his anti-establishment campaign claims the wealthy northern state of Nuevo Leon in midterm elections on Sunday (Daniel Becerril/Reuters).

Yesterday, Mexicans headed to the polls to vote for 500 federal deputies, 17 state legislatures, 9 governors, and more than 300 mayors. Corruption and security dominated many local discussions. And both new and old tactics emerged to influence votes. On the positive side, IMCO, a Mexican think tank led a 3 for 3 campaign, asking candidates to disclose their assets, potential conflicts of interests, and proof of paid taxes. While fewer than 400 of thousands of candidates participated, the effort and demand are a start toward greater transparency and accountability. Read more »

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, June 4, 2015
Foreign Direct Investment, Latin America A Venezuelan worker assembles a motorcycle made of Chinese parts at the Empire Keeway factory in Charallave, outside Caracas December 14, 2011. Every time that Beijing turns the gear of their loans to Caracas, thousands of barrels of oil are shipped to Asia, get tons of goods to South America and create dozens of companies as part of an oiled mechanism that gives millions of dollars to the Government of Hugo Chavez and great benefits to the Eastern giant (Jorge Silva/Reuters).

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America fell in 2014, down 16 percent to $159 billion according to the latest ECLAC report. This outpaced global declines closer to 7 percent, and fell far behind other emerging markets, which saw investments rise 5 percent on average, and 15 percent in Asia. Read more »