Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Brazil’s Brewing Trade Debate

by Matthew Taylor Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Brazil's President Michel Temer during their meeting at the West lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, September 2, 2016 (Minor Iwasaki/Reuters).

Brazil is in the midst of a grand debate on its future in the global economy. The debate has been happening behind the scenes, obfuscated by the fireworks of the Lava Jato corruption scandal, overshadowed by the flashier discussions of political reform and the Temer administration’s fiscal reforms, and hidden from view by explosive scandals, such as the recent meat-packing disaster that threatens one of Brazil’s key export markets. Read more »

Five Facts about Bad Hombres and Border Security

by Matthew Taylor Friday, March 10, 2017
People talk to their relatives at a wall separating Mexico and the United States, as photographed from Playas Tijuana, in Tijuana, Mexico, April 10, 2016 (Jorge Duenes/Reuters).

The new administration has emphasized the need to curb security threats from Latin America: bad hombres, rapist Mexicans, and the wall are among the wrenching rhetorical symbols that President Trump has used to signal his goals. Five data points highlight the challenges the administration will face as it moves to secure the southern border. Read more »

China Wins if NAFTA Dies

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, March 9, 2017
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a news conference at Los Pinos Presidential Palace in Mexico City June 4, 2013. Xi is on a three-day official visit to Mexico (Edgard Garrido/Reuters).

Much is made of the perils of ending NAFTA for Mexico, and rightly so. The 23-year-old agreement has helped the nation not only boost trade but also transform its economy, moving from a commodity to an advanced manufacturing exporter. With 80 percent of its exports headed north, even the threat of change has hurt Mexico’s currency, limited its ability to attract foreign direct investment, and cut the country’s current and future economic growth. Read more »

Automation is Changing Latin America Too

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Robots assemble a car at Ford Motor Company factory in Camacari, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, November 14, 2007. Ford invested US $1.2 billion at the Camacari's factory and created a unique environment that consolidates production line with their direct suppliers' own facilities where the models are made for the Brazilian market and exported to other in development countries as well (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters).

While politicians have focused primarily on the effects of trade, automation is rapidly transforming the nature of work. A recent McKinsey report estimates that half of the labor done today can be turned over to machines, fundamentally changing the nature of manufacturing, retail, food services, and data processing among other sectors. They predict that China, India, the United States, and Japan will see the largest and fastest shifts as a combination of easy capital, aging populations, and falling productivity speeds the transition away from a human workforce. By their calculations, nearly 400 million Chinese and 235 million Indian workers compete with robots today. In the United States and Japan, some 60 percent of jobs are susceptible to change. Although positions may not disappear altogether, the work people do will change, as roughly a third of today’s repetitive tasks could be taken over by machines. Read more »

Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, March 2, 2017
Courtesy Kaveh Sardari

This morning, I had the privilege of testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a hearing titled “Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy.” Also joining me before the committee were David Smilde, Senior Fellow, Washington Office on Latin America, and Mark Feierstein, Senior Associate, Americas Program Center for Strategic and International Studies. Read more »

Why Mexico Needs a Second Round

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, February 27, 2017
A woman casts her ballot during the presidential elections in San Bartolome Quialana, Mexico July 2, 2006 (Daniel LeClair/Reuters).

View article in Spanish, originally published in El Financiero.

Mexico’s presidential elections for decades have been a one shot deal. Whomever wins the most votes—paltry as that count may be—goes on to live in Los Pinos. And paltry they increasingly are — in the last two elections these numbers dipped well below 40 percent; in 2018 many believe the winner could garner less than a third of the ballots. This has significant negative ramifications for legitimacy, accountability, and governability. But there is a solution – a second electoral round. Read more »

Latin America’s Accountability Revolution

by Matthew Taylor Friday, February 24, 2017
People take part in a protest against corruption in Lima, Peru after a scandal involving bribes Brazil's Odebrecht distributed in Peru, February 16, 2017 (Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters).

A wave of corruption scandals has roiled Latin America in recent years, from Chile’s campaign finance affairs, through Mexico’s Casa Blanca revelations. Most recently, the information divulged in the December Odebrecht settlement has sent a shudder of fear across regional politics after the Brazilian construction firm admitted to paying nearly $800 million in bribes in twelve countries. The tide of corruption revelations has contributed to massive protests, slumping incumbent polls, and political uncertainty throughout the region. Read more »

The Future of Lava Jato and Brazil’s Reform Agenda

by Matthew Taylor Friday, February 10, 2017
Brazil's President Michel Temer attends the inauguration ceremony of new Ministers, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, February 3, 2017 (Reuters/Adriano Machado). Brazil's President Michel Temer attends the inauguration ceremony of new Ministers, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, February 3, 2017 (Reuters/Adriano Machado).

The tragic January airplane crash that killed Justice Teori Zavascki, a member of Brazil’s highest court (the Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF), has given President Michel Temer an opportunity to seize yet another commanding position in Brasília: a potentially balance-shifting court seat. This appointment, and other machinations underway in Brasilia, could undermine the Lava Jato investigation, engender a popular backlash, and ultimately undercut the incipient reform efforts underway in Congress. Read more »

Mexico Plummets in Annual Corruption Rankings

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, January 26, 2017
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) gestures as Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong applauds during the XXXVIII Session of the National Council of Public Security at the National Palace in Mexico City, August 21, 2015. A Mexican government auditor on Friday exonerated Pena Nieto and his finance minister from any wrongdoing over purchases of homes from public contractors, but opposition lawmakers poured scorn over the bid to lay the scandal to rest (Reuters/Edgard Garrido). Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) gestures as Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong applauds during the XXXVIII Session of the National Council of Public Security at the National Palace in Mexico City, August 21, 2015. A Mexican government auditor on Friday exonerated Pena Nieto and his finance minister from any wrongdoing over purchases of homes from public contractors, but opposition lawmakers poured scorn over the bid to lay the scandal to rest (Reuters/Edgard Garrido).

Transparency International yesterday released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks 176 countries on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to one-hundred (very clean), based on the opinions of citizens and experts. Read more »