Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

The Future of Brazilian Ethanol

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Workers harvest sugar cane in a farm in Maringa, Brazil (Courtesy Reuters). Workers harvest sugar cane in a farm in Maringa, Brazil (Courtesy Reuters).

I am in Brazil this week, and met today with people from the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA). In Brazil this means they are active energy players, as over half of the crop in Brazil is used for ethanol. In recent years they have become an effective lobbying force not just in Brazil, but also in Washington (and in Brussels). Read more »

Press Freedom and Democracy in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 23, 2012
Pedestrians look at the front pages of newspapers on a street in Quito October 1, 2007. President Rafael Correa's party on Sunday battled for a majority of seats in the election of an assembly the leftist leader said will challenge discredited political elites by drafting a new constitution (Guillermo Granja/Courtesy Reuters). Pedestrians look at the front pages of newspapers on a street in Quito October 1, 2007. President Rafael Correa's party on Sunday battled for a majority of seats in the election of an assembly the leftist leader said will challenge discredited political elites by drafting a new constitution (Guillermo Granja/Courtesy Reuters).

Last Wednesday, Ecuador’s Supreme Court upheld sentences handed down in July 2011 for four members of the El Universo newspaper’s staff in the latest chapter of a lengthy and controversial trial. Three of the newspaper’s directors, Carlos, César, and Nícolas Perez, and an editorialist, Emilio Palacio, face three years in jail and $40 million in fines. All have fled the country or sought asylum abroad, and many expect that the fines (if collected) will bankrupt the 90-year-old periodical. Read more »

Mexico’s Burgeoning Economy Amid Drug Violence

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I sat down last week with Bernie Gwertzman to talk about the top issues facing Mexico and U.S.-Mexican relations. In the interview we discussed Mexico’s economic prosperity (despite drug violence), immigration reform, and the importance of Mexico’s upcoming presidential election on both sides of the border. Here is an excerpt: Read more »

Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 16, 2012

I wrote a piece for CNN Global Public Square entitled “Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign,” which highlights the role illegal immigration plays in the 2012 U.S. presidential race. In it I discuss how the rhetoric does not always match up to current immigration realities, and how the Hispanic vote will affect the upcoming election. Here is a brief excerpt: Read more »

Guest Post: Why Guatemala’s Pérez Molina Is Considering Legalizing Drugs

by Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Guatemalan President Molina walks with his El Salvadoran counterpart Funes at the presidential house in Guatemala City (Jorge Lopez/Courtesy Reuters). Guatemalan President Molina walks with his El Salvadoran counterpart Funes at the presidential house in Guatemala City (Jorge Lopez/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by Natalie Kitroeff, a research associate here at the Council on Foreign Relations who works with me in the Latin America program. She received her BA from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Read more »

Venezuela’s Capriles Radonski Wins Primary, Looks toward October Election

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, February 13, 2012
Presidential candidate Henrique Capriles speaks to his supporters after knowing the results of the election in Caracas (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters). Presidential candidate Henrique Capriles speaks to his supporters after knowing the results of the election in Caracas (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters).

Things are heating up in the two presidential races facing Latin America this year. On the heels of Josefina Vázquez Mota’s victory in the PAN party primary last week, on Sunday Venezuela hosted yet another historic vote. For the first time since Chávez won the presidency 1999, the opposition united, giving Venezuelans the chance to choose a single candidate to run in the general election this October against Chávez. And vote they did. Nearly 3 million ballots were cast in a massive turnout,  which is particularly impressive given that many (particularly those with public sector jobs) fear even being seen in line to vote, as it would paint them as opposition sympathizers, perhaps costing them their jobs. Read more »

Can Vázquez Mota Win Mexico’s Presidential Election?

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 9, 2012
Vazquez Mota celebrates after winning the primary election to be the National Action Party's candidate for president, in Mexico city. (Edgard Garrido/Courtesy Reuters). Vazquez Mota celebrates after winning the primary election to be the National Action Party's candidate for president, in Mexico city. (Edgard Garrido/Courtesy Reuters).

I wrote a piece on Vázquez Mota and what it means for the Mexican election for Foreign Affairs entitled “Vázquez Mota and the 2012 Mexican Election”. In it I argue that she has the potential to upend the presidential race, but only if she can raise her profile and generate enthusiasm in the all important female vote (over half of the electorate). Here is an excerpt: Read more »

The Politics of Latin American Energy

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, February 6, 2012
An aerial view of the final stage of the construction of the new P-56 semi-submersible production platform for the oil company Petrobas at the Brasfels shipyard in Angra dos Reis (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters). An aerial view of the final stage of the construction of the new P-56 semi-submersible production platform for the oil company Petrobas at the Brasfels shipyard in Angra dos Reis (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

There has been a lot of talk about the shifting geopolitical weight from the east to the west due to the growth of energy resources in Latin America. Ever growing oil discoveries off the coast of Brazil, hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of shale gas in Argentina, and booming energy markets in Colombia and Peru have led many to bet on Latin America as the next energy frontier. Tempering the enthusiasm is the stagnation or even decline in output in other places — Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela — despite the buried potential riches. Read more »