Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Credible Commitment and the Colombian Peace Plebiscite

by Matthew Taylor Monday, August 22, 2016
Colombia, Colombian peace process, FARC, President Juan Manuel Santos, Alvaro Uribe, civil war, public ratification, peace plebiscite Colombia's lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (R) and Colombia's FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez shake hands after signing the protocol and timetable for the disarmament of the FARC in Havana, Cuba, August 5, 2016 (Reuters/Enrique de la Osa).

The Colombian peace process began in 2012, and by June 2016, appeared to have reached preliminary agreement on a deal that would result in the cessation of hostilities, ending a war that has killed more than a quarter of a million Colombians. Yet somewhat surprisingly, while the deal was initially celebrated as a milestone, recent polling suggests that a declining share of Colombians would actually support it: 39 percent in August, down from 56 percent in July. Read more »

A Game of Inches: The Uncertain Fight Against Corruption in Latin America

by Matthew Taylor Wednesday, August 10, 2016
3 out of 3, anticorruption, Car Wash investigation, Claudia Paz y Paz, corruption, International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Matthew Stephenson, Sérgio Moro A boy holds a sign which reads, "No more corruption", during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in downtown Guatemala City, May 30, 2015 (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez).

Harvard’s inimitable Matthew Stephenson this week published a thought-provoking blog post comparing anticorruption efforts in Asia and Latin America. Crudely summarizing Stephenson’s argument, a few years ago many looked to Asia as the gold standard in anticorruption efforts, in part because of the success of independent and effective anticorruption agencies (ACAs) in the region. But recent news of political meddling with Hong Kong’s ACA, brazen kleptocracy in Malaysia’s state development fund, and efforts to water down reform in Indonesia all suggest that the pendulum is swinging in a less positive direction. By contrast, Stephenson is optimistic about the important gains made in recent years in Latin America, including by Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), Brazil’s Car Wash investigation, elections in Peru and Argentina that highlighted voter frustration with corruption, and Mexico’s “3 out of 3” reforms. Read more »

Brazil’s Agonizing August

by Matthew Taylor Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Brazil, 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, Zika, August, Dilma Rousseff, impeachment, Michel Temer, reforms, pension reform, labor reform, elections, democracy, developmentalist economic policies, coalitional political system Brazil's David Luiz lies on the pitch after missing a goal during the 2014 World Cup third-place playoff between Brazil and the Netherlands at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia July 12, 2014 (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino).

The coming month will be a stressful one for Brazilians.

The Olympic opening ceremony on August 5 may have two rival presidents in attendance, killer mosquitoes, pesky media, and now, the potential for terrorism. Most Brazilians had long hoped the games would be a chaotic but happy mess, like the 2014 World Cup, and few anticipated an embarrassment. But sentiment has shifted with the arrest of a dozen alleged homegrown extremists. Terrorism can be added to the long litany of potential problems that have led Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes to note that “contingencies are always possible,” and that the Olympics have been a “lost opportunity” for Brazil. Read more »

Corruption, Politics, and Corporate Transparency in Latin America

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, July 21, 2016
anticorruption, campaign spending limits, corporate donations, corporate transparency, corruption, electoral finance, illegal enrichment, influence peddling, Lava Jato, multilatinas, multinationals, Odebrecht, politics, transparency Gustavo de Hoyos (C), president of the Mexican Employers' Confederation (COPARMEX), holds a placard during a protest to demand senators to approve the original proposal of the National Anticorruption System, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico, June 16, 2016. The placard reads: "Businessmen demand to stop corruption. #SNA" (Reuters/Ginnette Riquelme).

It is Latin America’s anticorruption season. Deep beneath the waves of revulsion about scandal, graft, and the general filthiness of local politics has been a profound concern with democracy. In particular, there is a growing awareness that the dangerous liaisons between corruption and electoral finance threaten the stability and legitimacy of elected governments in the region. While there is plenty of good news about the impressive corruption busters who are shaking up settled patterns of corruption and impunity in the region, many of the underlying links between corporate transparency, corruption, and campaign finance remain deeply troubling and potentially destabilizing. Read more »

Argentina and Brazil Grow Together

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, July 15, 2016
Argentina, Brazil, corruption, global supply chains, high expectations, Mauricio Macri, Michel Temer, reform, South America, stagnant growth, trade Hundreds of cars stand in the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 1, 2015 (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes).

In my piece published this week on Foreignaffairs.com I reflect on Argentina’s and Brazil’s current political and economic situations. I argue that while their current challenges are their own, a potential long-term solution to their problems comes from each other—namely working to build an integrated South American economic hub. You can read the first two paragraphs of the article below: Read more »

Latin America’s Savings Problem

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, July 14, 2016
Latin America, savings, investment, safety net, growth, Inter-American Development Bank, public savings, private savings, foreign savings, domestic savings, government consumption, pension reform, infrastructure investment, targeted tax policies, productivity, financial sector reform, savings culture, access, incentive Shoppers look over merchandise at Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) store in Peru, at the Jockey Plaza mall in Lima, July 21, 2015 (Reuters/Mariana Bazo).

Savings are essential for growth: domestic savings finance productive investment, provide a safety net for the future, and are strongly associated with long-term growth prospects. Sadly, a new report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) makes the convincing case that Latin America has fallen behind, with repercussions for development in the region for decades to come. Read more »

Venezuela’s Woes Reach Mercosur

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, July 7, 2016
Mercosur, trade, Pacific Alliance, Venezuela, European Union, democratic clause, Nicolas Maduro, Jose Serra, Delcy Rodriguez Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro stands in front of an image depicting the country's late President Hugo Chavez during a meeting with members of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas, in this handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace on January 29, 2016 (Reuters/Miraflores Palace).

Mercosur is under considerable internal strain. As at other times in the trade bloc’s history, shifting political winds and changing trade priorities have placed the member countries at loggerheads. The five-member organization is in the midst of what is perhaps the most severe of its periodic identity crises, exacerbated by the Left’s waning power in the region, the rise of the Pacific Alliance, and renewed member interest in external trade agreements. Read more »

How Americans See Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Donald Trump, Immigration, Justin Trudeau, manufacturing, Mexico, NAFTA, North America, Ottawa, supply chains, Vianovo (Courtesy Vianovo and GSD&M)

The three North American leaders meet tomorrow in Ottawa, the new Trudeau government reviving an annual summit. As a recent poll of U.S. perceptions of its neighbors by Vianovo and GSD&M confirms, they face public opinion headwinds. Canvassing 1,000 U.S. adults through YouGov, the survey reveals the deep suspicions Americans hold of their neighbors, especially Mexico. Read more »

Five Questions With Geraldine Knatz: The Panama Canal Expansion and the Evolution of Global Trade

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Panama Canal, shipping industry, global trade, ocean carrier industry, Ocean Alliance, ports, We Can't Wait, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act People wave at a Chinese COSCO container vessel, as it arrives to Cocoli locks after crossing the Panama Canal to the Pacific side, during its first ceremonial transit of the new Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama June 26, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Jasso).

As the first ship goes through the expanded Panama Canal, we sat down with Geraldine Knatz, former director of the Port of Los Angeles and now a professor of policy and engineering at the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. Dr. Knatz talked about changes in the shipping industry, trends affecting U.S. ports, and what the canal expansion will mean for trade globally. Read more »

Brazil’s Challenging Distractions

by Matthew Taylor Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Michel Temer, impeachment, Dilma Rousseff, Lava Jato, Renan Calheiros, Jose Sarney, Romero Juca, anticorruption, Petrobras, Ministerio Publico, Leo Pinheiro, Marina Silva, Marcelo Odebrecht, Zelotes, Eduardo Cunha Brazil's interim President Michel Temer reacts during the inauguration ceremony of new presidents of state companies, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, June 1, 2016 (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino).

Michel Temer’s first month as interim president has not been the stuff of dreams. Even though important elements of urgently needed economic reforms have advanced, impeachment politics continue to cast a long shadow, corruption investigations continue to percolate, and Temer’s legitimacy remains under constant assault. Read more »