Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

How the U.S. Sequester Will Hit Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officers work at Washington's Reagan National Airport outside Washington, February 25, 2013 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officers work at Washington's Reagan National Airport outside Washington, February 25, 2013 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

With the United States quickly approaching its Friday sequester deadline, the federal government is bracing for cuts. Much of the $85 billion in spending cuts will hit domestic programs and services—everything from wildlife reserves to childcare services. But the reverberations will also be felt in Latin America and the rest of the world. Read more »

Mexico’s Drug War and the Disappeared

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 21, 2013
Maria Orozco, mother of Francis Alejandro Garcia Orozco who was abducted along with five other men, arranges their photographs at her shop in Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero February 20, 2013 (Tomas Bravo/Courtesy Reuters). Maria Orozco, mother of Francis Alejandro Garcia Orozco who was abducted along with five other men, arranges their photographs at her shop in Iguala, in the Mexican state of Guerrero February 20, 2013 (Tomas Bravo/Courtesy Reuters).

An often overlooked problem with the so-called “war on drugs” mindset has been the effect on local populations: as military officials or militarized law enforcement officers fight narcotraffickers, they often play by rules of engagement that end up hurting the very citizens they are mandated to protect. Read more »

Mexico Makes It

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Foreign Affairs, March/April 2013 Foreign Affairs, March/April 2013

Four tons of cocaine confiscated by U.S. authorities off the California coast; 35 bodies dumped by the side of a busy Veracruz highway in broad daylight; an attack by gunmen on a birthday party in Ciudad Juárez killing 14, many of them teenagers: tragedies like these, all of which occurred over the past two years and were extensively covered by the media, are common in Mexico today. Prominent Mexican news organizations and analysts have estimated that during the six-year term of Mexico’s last president, Felipe Calderón, over 60,000 people were killed in drug-related violence, and some researchers have put the number at tens of thousands more. Mexico’s crime rates are some of the worst in the Western Hemisphere. According to Latinobarómetro, an annual regionwide public opinion poll, over 40 percent of Mexicans say that they or a family member has been the victim of a crime at some point in the last year. Hidden behind the troubling headlines, however, is another, more hopeful Mexico—one undergoing rapid and widespread social, political, and economic transformation. Read more »

Mexico’s Murder Rate Plateaus

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 14, 2013
A candle and a pair of shoes with a name tag of its owner, a victim of the drug war, are arranged at a square in Monterrey January 15, 2012. A candle and a pair of shoes with a name tag of its owner, a victim of the drug war, are arranged at a square in Monterrey January 15, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week the Trans-Border Institute’s Justice in Mexico Project released their fourth special report on drug violence in Mexico. These reports (see the 2010, 2011, and 2012 ones too) provide some of the most in-depth analyses of homicide trends in Mexico by using a range of government and media sources, as well as their own data. Read more »

Mexico’s Drug War

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In the past three decade Mexico has undergone widespread political and economic transformations, becoming an electoral democracy and cultivating a growing middle class. Despite this real progress, Mexico faces an acute security crisis that has taken tens of thousands of lives and affected many more. In this recently released CFR video, Alejandro Hope, Stewart Patrick, Laura Vargas, and I take a look at the current situation in Mexico and the prospects for a less violent future. Read more »

Transforming Brazil’s Favelas

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 7, 2013
Children play in front of the field at Cidade de Deus (City of God) slum in Rio de Janeiro March 15, 2011, where U.S. President Barrack Obama will visit on Sunday, according to the local press (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters). Children play in front of the field at Cidade de Deus (City of God) slum in Rio de Janeiro March 15, 2011, where U.S. President Barrack Obama will visit on Sunday, according to the local press (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

I got the chance last week to visit the Centro Comunitário Lídia dos Santos (or CEACA), an NGO based in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Morro dos Macacos—once the grounds of a zoo, and now home to some 25,000 cariocas (Rio’s residents). Headed by Dona Anna Marcondes Faria, it is the culmination of nearly fifty years of her work to make the community safer. From initial efforts to bring running water and kindergarten classes to the neighborhood, the two story building now offers a host of after school programs, art classes, professional training sessions, and environmental awareness projects. The goal is not just to teach skills but also confidence. CEACA, along with NGOs in some 450 other communities, have gained the attention and support of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Walmart, and dozens of other corporations. Read more »

Mexico’s Congressional Agenda for 2013

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Members of the Mexican congress attend a session over the immunity of fellow congressman Julio Cesar Godoy in Mexico City December 14, 2010 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Members of the Mexican congress attend a session over the immunity of fellow congressman Julio Cesar Godoy in Mexico City December 14, 2010 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

With Enrique Peña Nieto’s first congressional session just starting, expectations are high. Between now and April 30th, when the sixty-second Congress will adjourn, many hope the administration will tackle the deep seated structural issues that hold the nation back. Read more »

Mexico’s Democratic Malaise

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, February 1, 2013
A protester holds a symbolic coffin who reads "democracy" during a demonstration in support of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, runner-up in Mexico's presidential race, after a court threw out his challenge to the poll result, in Hermosillo September 1, 2012. A protester holds a symbolic coffin that reads "democracy" during a demonstration in support of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, runner-up in Mexico's presidential race, after a court threw out his challenge to the poll result, in Hermosillo September 1, 2012 (Alonso Castillo/Courtesy Reuters).

During Mexico’s 2012 presidential election, many political pundits voiced their fears that the PRI’s return would bring a resurgence of the country’s less democratic past. According to new polling data by the Pro­yecto Comparativo de Elecciones Nacionales, this worry seems widespread, as fewer Mexicans believe in and support the country’s institutions and democracy itself. Yet this is at a time when Mexico’s checks and balances are, if anything, strengthening, especially when compared to the past PRI presidencies. In an article published in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs Latinoamerica (and below), Alejandro Moreno and I look at the survey results and how they fit into the country’s political and social context.  Read more »