Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

CFR Media Call: Summit of the Americas

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, April 10, 2015
Summit of the Americas, Panama, Panama City, Cuba Cuba's President Raul Castro listens during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in San Antonio de Belen in the province of Heredia January 28, 2015, in this handout courtesy of the Costa Rica Presidency (Costa Rica Presidency/Courtesy Reuters).

The seventh Summit of the Americas begins today in Panama City, Panama. Taking place every three years, it brings together leaders throughout the Western Hemisphere. This summit’s central theme is “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas,” addressing issues including education, health, energy, the environment, migration, security, citizen participation, and democratic governance. This is also the first summit Cuba attends. Yesterday, I participated in a CFR media call presided by Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, offering a preview of the summit. You can listen to the call here.

Advanced Industries and North America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, April 6, 2015
advanced industries, innovation, R&D, stem, economic competitiveness A view of employees working at the General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri February 7, 2012. When the U.S. automaker wanted to assign the launch of the next version of their full-sized pickup trucks and SUVs, they turned to one of the toughest executives in its ranks. The 5-foot-2 Diana Tremblay, GM's global manufacturing chief, is one of the highest ranking women in the automotive industry and has upended expectations her entire 35-year career, from directing workers in GM's foundries to staring down union labor negotiator (Sarah Conard/Courtesy Reuters).

The U.S. economic recovery and current strength reflect in large part advanced industries. As other sectors faltered, both employment and output in these businesses grew. In 2013, they employed 12.3 million workers (9 percent of the U.S. workforce), who made on average $90,000 (compared to the U.S. mean of $51,500). These industries generated $2.7 trillion in output (17 percent of U.S. GDP), and indirectly supported an additional 14.3 million jobs. Read more »

Latin America’s Middle-Income Trap

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, March 19, 2015
Latin America, Middle-income trap A student writes down in her note book on the first day of school in Managua February 11, 2013. Around 1.6 million students are expected to start their new academic year, according to the Ministry of Education of Nicaragua (Oswaldo Rivas/Courtesy Reuters).

In 2014, GDP growth in the region slowed to less than 1 percent. Expectations for 2015 are just slightly better, with forecasters predicting growth of nearer to 2 percent. The downturn reflects external factors, including the European Union’s continuing problems, a slower China, and falling commodity prices. But it also results from domestic barriers that hold these nations back. Read more »

The Political Fallout of the Petrobras Scandal

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, March 13, 2015
A member of Brazil's Movimento dos Sem-Teto (Roofless Movement) holds up a sign in a protest in front of the Petrobras headquarters in Sao Paulo March 11, 2015. The sign reads "No more Lies" (Nacho Doce/Courtesy Reuters). A member of Brazil's Movimento dos Sem-Teto (Roofless Movement) holds up a sign in a protest in front of the Petrobras headquarters in Sao Paulo March 11, 2015. The sign reads "No more Lies" (Nacho Doce/Courtesy Reuters).

The Petrobras corruption investigation, known locally as Operation Lava Jato (Carwash), entered a new phase last week, when Rodrigo Janot, Brazil’s general prosecutor, implicated 53 politicians from six different political parties. All but two come from President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) congressional coalition. Read more »

Central America’s Unaccompanied Minors

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, March 6, 2015
Central America, Unaccompanied Minors, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador Women and their children wait in line to register at the Honduran Center for Returned Migrants after being deported from Mexico, in San Pedro Sula, northern Honduras June 20, 2014. Thousands of young people are hoping to reach the U.S. from their impoverished and violent homes in Central America. In the eight months ended June 15, the U.S. has detained about 52,000 children at the Mexican border, double the figure the year earlier. There is no telling how many have gotten through (Jorge Cabrera/Courtesy Reuters).

During the summer of 2014 tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors surged across the U.S-Mexico border. Over the course of the fiscal year, nearly 70,000—mostly from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—endured brutal and at times even deadly conditions as they made their way to the United States. While most of these children were between the ages of 13 and 17, the fastest growing group was 6 to 12 years old. Of the many factors that influenced their individual decisions, four stand out. Read more »

Glimpses of Optimism in Guatemala

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Guatemala, Optimism, Asociacion Puente, Wakami, MILKnCOOKIES, Sheva.com, CICIG (Courtesy Shannon O'Neil)

The news and statistics from Guatemala are anything but reassuring. More than half the nation’s sixteen million citizens live in poverty. Worse, almost one in two children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which affects not just their immediate well-being but also limits their physical and intellectual potential for the rest of their lives. Read more »

Interview With Charlie Rose

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 5, 2015
Charlie Rose, Shannon O'Neil, Enrique Peña Nieto, US-Mexico relations (Courtesy Charlie Rose)

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining Charlie Rose on his show along with Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, and Francisco Goldman, contributor to The New Yorker, to discuss Mexican President Peña Nieto’s meeting with President Obama last month and US-Mexico relations more broadly. Recently aired, you can watch the interview here.

The Strategic Importance of North America to U.S. Interests

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, February 4, 2015
North America, Western Hemisphere, House Foreign Affairs, energy, economic competitiveness, integration (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Yesterday, I had the privilege to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere at a hearing titled “The Strategic Importance of the Western Hemisphere: Defining U.S. Interests in the Region.” Also joining me before the subcommittee were Bonnie Glick, senior vice president at Meridian International Center, Evan Ellis, research professor at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, and Eric Farnsworth, vice president of Council of the Americas. Read more »

United States and Mexico Finally Resolve Cross-Border Trucking Issue

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Mexican trucking, Mexican carriers, NAFTA, pilot program California Air Resources field representative Valente Armenta works a checkpoint set up to inspect heavy-duty trucks traveling near the Mexican-U.S. border in Otay Mesa, California September 10, 2013. California Highway Patrol and the Air Resources Board were inspecting trucks for compliance to California's air pollution laws (Mike Blake/Courtesy Reuters).

For the twenty years since the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States failed to fulfill its treaty obligations to open its roads and permit safe cross-border services. As part of the original agreement, Mexican trucks were supposed to be able to operate in four U.S. states—Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona—by December 1995, and then throughout the continental United States by January 1, 2000. Almost fifteen years later, the vast majority of Mexican trucks are still not allowed on U.S. roads. Mexico retaliated in kind, blocking the movement of U.S. trucks within its borders. In 2009, Mexico also applied retaliatory tariffs on a yearly rotating basis to a variety of U.S. imports, permitted by a favorable 2001 NAFTA dispute settlement panel ruling. Read more »

Elections to Watch in 2015

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, January 5, 2015
Latin America Elections 2015 Argentina's current president and presidential candidate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner listens to Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli (L) during a visit to the Luchetti noodle factory in Buenos Aires, October 20, 2011. Argentine President Fernandez looks set to win easy re-election on Sunday after a dramatic comeback that has confounded critics of her unconventional economic policies and combative style. A center-leftist who has given the state a leading role in the economy, Fernandez has rebounded from low approval ratings and angry protests by farmers and middle-class voters that erupted early in her first term. Polls show she could win more than 50 percent of the vote on Sunday (Martin Acosta/Courtesy Reuters).

The region will hold just two presidential elections this year, choosing new leaders in Guatemala and Argentina. More prevalent will be congressional and local elections. Midterms in Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia in particular may prove bellwethers for the direction of these three important regional economies. Read more »