Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Latin American Integration efforts: will they succeed this time?

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, January 20, 2009

With the formation of ALBA, Unasur, IIRSA, and many others, Latin American nations are pushing towards a new era of economic, political, and social integration. But how innovative are these efforts really? Will they differ from the failed attempts of the past? I recently wrote the following article for World Politics Review on the promise and perils of the region’s integration. Read more »

An Update on “Why is the United States backing Mexican drug gangs?”

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, January 15, 2009

Since I published a short article on the drug war in Mexico on Tuesday (and re-published it in a posting below) I’ve received a number of responses and questions related to gun shops on the border and the weapons they sell that end up in the hands of drug cartels in Mexico. I’d like to thank everyone who sent feedback and clarify a few points.

I do incorrectly imply in the article that gun shops on the border sell hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The border gun shops do not legally sell these. However, these type of weapons used by Mexican drug cartels have been seized by customs officlas making their way south through the border. How they are purchased is somewhat unknown, but many of these are making their way to Mexico through the United States.

I received many skeptical emails regarding the number of gunshops along the border. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) estimates that there are about 6,650 Federal Firearms Licensees in this area, and the border is 2,000 mile long, meaning that there are 3.3 gun shops per mile (I said 3 per mile in the article). If we include all the shops in border states (not just near the border), the number rises to 9,161 locations.
Read more »

Is Argentina the next drug haven?

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, January 8, 2009

When the United States thinks about the drug war, most focus on Colombia and Mexico. Yet concerted efforts in these two countries are leading to problems elsewhere. Argentina may be the next victim.

Drugs are available throughout the country, specifically a lower-cost and highly-addictive smokable cocaine residue called paco. News articles highlight the worries of government officials and non-governmental organizations over the social costs of increased drug consumption, both in human lives and increased crime rates. But this may be just the beginning for Argentina. In response to enforcement elsewhere, Argentina is increasingly becoming a drug producing and transit country of methamphetamine in particular, also known as crystal meth or ice.

Last July Mexico outlawed imports of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, two common cold medicine drugs that are the basis for crystal meth. In response to Mexico’s crackdown, domestic meth production in the United States rose. But the United States is not alone. Production also seems to have moved to countries with less restrictive import rules for these basic ingredients. Two weeks after Mexico’s ban, nine Mexicans and an Argentine were arrested in Buenos Aires for running a meth lab linked to the Sinaloa cartel. Since then, Argentina has experienced several violent episodes – more reminiscent of Mexico’s than Argentina’s recent past. In two separate cases, one in August and one in October, three Argentine narcotraffickers were abducted, handcuffed, and sprayed with bullets; their bodies left to be found days later.
Read more »