Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

The Presidential Inbox: Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 30, 2013

As part of the Council on Foreign Relations’, “Presidential Inbox” series, I sat down yesterday with Arturo Valenzuela, former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Sergio Galvis, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, to talk about the issues that Obama will face in his foreign policy toward Latin America. You can watch the event here or below. Read more »

Diverging Inequality in Latin America and the United States

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Overview of the shantytown known as Villa 31, home of some 20,000 poor Argentines and immigrants from neighboring Paraguay and Bolivia, is separated by train tracks and a road from the city's richest neigborhood, Recoleta, in the center of Buenos Aires, October 19 (Enrique Marcarian / Courtesy Reuters). Overview of the shantytown known as Villa 31, home to some 20,000 poor Argentinians and immigrants from neighboring Paraguay and Bolivia. It is separated by train tracks and a road from the city's richest neighborhood, Recoleta, in the center of Buenos Aires, October 19 (Enrique Marcarian/Courtesy Reuters).

Most everyone agrees that inequality matters. Studies by the World Bank, the IMF, and by academics (such as Richard Wilkinson of the University of Nottingham) demonstrate how harmful inequality can be, affecting a whole host of factors, ranging from economic growth rates to teenage pregnancy rates and crime. Read more »

Managing Illegal Immigration to the United States

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, May 15, 2013
U.S. Border Patrol surveys the border fence near rancher John Ladd's property adjacent to the Arizona-Mexico border near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013. U.S. Border Patrol surveys the border fence near rancher John Ladd's property adjacent to the Arizona-Mexico border near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013 (Samantha Sais/Courtesy Reuters).

As Senate immigration negotiations continue, the Council on Foreign Relations has just released a report on the effectiveness of U.S. immigration enforcement. The authors, Bryan Roberts (a senior economist at Econometrica, Inc), John Whitely (an economist focusing on resource allocation), and my colleague Edward Alden, detail the dramatic surge in border security “inputs”—personnel and money—outlining the sharp increases in the number of border patrol agents and the amount of their budgets. But the report highlights the lack of government data on “outputs” (i.e., the results of each program) and “outcomes” (how successful or unsuccessful each policy was in reducing illegal immigration). Read more »

Social Mobility in Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 9, 2013
A girl from the "Insurgentes de la Paz" (Peace Insurgents) school hangs up her school bag near an old bus turned into her classroom in the settlement of Pueblo Nuevo, Oaxaca (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). A girl from the "Insurgentes de la Paz" (Peace Insurgents) school hangs up her school bag near an old bus turned into her classroom in the settlement of Pueblo Nuevo, Oaxaca (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

One of the biggest criticisms leveled at Mexico is the lack of social mobility. A new report published by Mexico City’s Centro de Estudios Espinosa Yglesias (CEEY) takes a look at just how mobile (and immobile) Mexican society really is—revealing that there are both reasons for worry and for cautious optimism. On the bright side, there is a significant amount of mobility in Mexico’s middle three economic quartiles. In contrast, few of the richest and the poorest leave their origins behind (with a full 50 percent staying put on each end of the economic ladder). Read more »

What to Watch in U.S. Drug Policy

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, May 7, 2013
A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012. A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012 (Anthony Bolante/Courtesy Reuters).

Reading through the 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, it is not all that different from recent years past. Drug use remains a serious issue within the United States, with national trends staying fairly steady. Cocaine usage has indeed fallen (from 1 percent of the population to .5 percent), but marijuana usage rose from 6 percent to 7 percent during the same time period—helping to keep the overall monthly drug use levels stable (at over 8 percent of Americans). The biggest changes evident in the Obama administration’s drug policy are rhetorical—defining addiction as a disease, and framing drug use as a public health problem instead of as a moral failing. Read more »

Five Myths About Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 2, 2013
People cross from the US to Mexico at the international border station in Calexico, California, adjacent to the Mexican border town of Mexicali, November 3, 2009 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters). People cross from the US to Mexico at the international border station in Calexico, California, adjacent to the Mexican border town of Mexicali, November 3, 2009 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters).

As President Barack Obama meets today with his counterpart, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, he is navigating one of America’s broadest and most complex bilateral relationships. In this op-ed for the BBC (that you can read here and below), I argue that it is important for Obama and his team to take into account the fundamental transformations that Mexico has undergone over the past thirty years—since it is these new realities that will shape both the substance and nature of U.S.-Mexico relations far into the future. Read more »