Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

The Line of Fire

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Venezuela came to claim the region’s highest murder rate.

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Mention violence in Latin America today and most people think of Mexico. But if you compare the numbers, Latin America’s hotspot is somewhere else entirely: Venezuela, whose homicide rate far surpasses Mexico’s. Under a decade of President Chavez, Venezuela’s homicide rate has increased by about 140 percent, making Venezuela one of the most violent countries in the world. Read more »

Swine Flu, the Drug War, and the Mexican State

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, May 5, 2009

As if Mexico didn’t have enough problems, it is now the epicenter of the swine flu epidemic. Confirmed cases of the influenza top 300, with 12 officially confirmed deaths. Experts, though, estimate the true number of infections in the thousands. Mexico’s economy – already on the rocks – will now definitively plummet in 2009, leading hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions, back into poverty. But there is a silver lining. The Mexican government’s handling of the epidemic should banish any notions of a failed state on our southern border.

While its origin and spread are still quite mysterious, cases of A/H1N1 virus, or swine flu, first appeared in Mexico and the U.S. southwestern border region in late March. Initially diagnosed as a regular flu, laboratory testing confirmed in mid-April that a new hybrid of pig, bird, and human flu virus was spreading rapidly and lethally throughout Mexico, the United States, and now the world.

In addition to the human costs, the flu is expected to hit Mexico’s economy hard. Already reeling from the U.S. and global downturn, GDP is expected to fall at least 5 percent – nearing the declines suffered during the 1995 “Tequila crisis.” Hardest hit is the $11 billion a year tourism industry, which had been holding up despite worries of drug violence. Cruise ships are rerouting away from its ports, only flights out of Mexico are full, and hotel phones ring with cancellations.
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