Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

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Latin America’s Moment

by Shannon K. O'Neil
March 10, 2011

A child holding flowers during International Women's Day in Lima, March 8, 2011.

A child holding flowers during International Women's Day in Lima, March 8, 2011 (Mariana Bazo/Courtesy Reuters).

It is increasingly Latin America’s moment. Home to nearly 600 million people – almost a tenth of the world’s population – the region generates over $6 trillion dollars a year. With its fertile soil, huge mineral deposits, a wealth of clean energy, and vast oil and fresh water reserves, Latin America is the world’s breadbasket and a strong engine of global growth.

Over the last two decades, the region’s nations have undergone profound transformations. Today the vast majority of Latin Americans engage in vibrant—if at times imperfect—democracies, demanding better services and representation from their governments. Working in ever more open economies, tens of millions of Latin Americans joined the ranks of the middle class. Many countries have not only withstood the global recession, but also have emerged as drivers of a reviving world economy. Many too have confidently taken to the world stage, playing crucial roles in multilateral forums ranging from the G20 to the U.N. Security Council, and taking on issues such as global development and peace-building efforts.

Yet they also face challenges – of continued poverty, structural inequality, rising public insecurity, and, in some places, limits on civic and political freedoms. Big and small, rich and poor, open and closed, left and right, clean and corrupt, peacemakers and iconoclasts, the hemisphere has it all.

Amid all its diversity, Latin America has never mattered more for the United States. The Western Hemisphere is now indelibly tied through commerce, energy, people, and politics. This blog aims to make sense of the political, economic, and diplomatic currents in the region, as well as its at times friendly and at times fractious relations with the United States. It builds and expands on, the blog I have published since 2006 (and which will continue mirroring this site). As I lay out my own thoughts, I look forward to yours.

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