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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Showing posts for "Matthew Taylor"

Brazil’s Brewing Trade Debate

by Matthew Taylor
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
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 »

Latin America’s Accountability Revolution

by Matthew Taylor
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
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 »

Open Questions about Latin American Relations During the Trump Administration

by Matthew Taylor
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto walk out after finishing a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016 (Reuters/Henry Romero). U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto walk out after finishing a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016 (Reuters/Henry Romero).

We know very little about who will run Western Hemisphere affairs under the Trump administration. So far, the only named appointees are Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director Craig Deare. There are as yet no nominees for key Western Hemisphere positions at State, Defense, or Commerce, which is not unexpected for an administration this young. Although the Latin America team is not fully formed, the pressing Latin America agenda – which will get underway in earnest with today’s visit by a Mexican delegation – suggests that it is well worth reflecting on the central questions likely to determine the trajectory of the region during Trump’s presidency: Read more »

The Even Scarier Thing About Brazil’s Prison Violence

by Matthew Taylor
Relatives of inmates react in front of Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa jail in the center of the Amazonian city of Manaus, Brazil, January 8, 2017 (Reuters/Michael Dantas). Relatives of inmates react in front of Desembargador Raimundo Vidal Pessoa jail in the center of the Amazonian city of Manaus, Brazil, January 8, 2017 (Reuters/Michael Dantas).

Prison violence has taken the lives of more than one hundred Brazilian prisoners since the beginning of the year. While the recent killings have been gruesome and especially numerous, they are a continuation of a long-standing pattern of savage prison violence that has developed its own macabre logic of control. Scarier still than the calculated horror of the past week’s violence, though, is the possibility that this prison violence may contribute to the consolidation of a particularly virulent form of criminal organization that threatens the rule of law in Brazil and its neighbors. Read more »

The Odebrecht Settlement and the Costs of Corruption

by Matthew Taylor
A sign of the Odebrecht SA construction conglomerate is pictured in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 26, 2016 (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes). A sign of the Odebrecht SA construction conglomerate is pictured in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 26, 2016 (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes).

It is hard to overstate the meaning of the settlement announced by U.S. authorities on December 21 with Odebrecht. Under this “largest-ever global foreign bribery resolution,”[1] the construction giant and its petrochemical subsidiary Braskem have agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to Brazil, U.S. authorities, and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General. Of the total criminal fines, 80 percent of Odebrecht’s payments and 70 percent of Braskem’s payments will go to Brazil, a victory for both Brazilian prosecutors and for the cash-strapped Brazilian government. Read more »

Latin America’s Wide-Open Electoral Season

by Matthew Taylor
July 28, 2016 (Reuters/Guadalupe Pardo). July 28, 2016 (Reuters/Guadalupe Pardo).

Half of the eighteen nations of Central and South America will hold presidential elections over the next two years.[1] The number of elections is not unprecedented, but the degree of uncertainty is, given the economic doldrums and political crises that have afflicted the region in recent years. As a consequence of the electoral outlook’s uncertainty, many of the coming year’s events in Latin America will need to be interpreted through the peculiar lens of candidates’ strategic calculations and parties’ maneuvering for advantage at the polls. Read more »

Michel Temer’s Shrinking Presidency

by Matthew Taylor
Brazil, president, Lava Jato, PMDB, Michel Temer, corruption, anticorruption reforms, Geddel Vieira Lima Brazil's President Michel Temer looks on during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, November 27, 2016 (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino).

When he officially became president three months ago, Michel Temer’s game plan was simple and bold: in the roughly eighteen months before the 2018 presidential campaign ramped up, he would undertake a variety of legislative reforms that would put the government’s accounts back on track, enhance investor confidence, stimulate an economic recovery, and possibly set the stage for a center-right presidential bid (if not by Temer himself, at least by a close ally). Temer’s band of advisors—Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) stalwarts and long-time Brasília hands Romero Jucá, Geddel Vieira Lima, Eliseu Padilha, and Moreira Franco—would ensure that he had the backing of Congress to push through reforms that might not bring immediate returns, but nonetheless might improve investor confidence, prompting new investments in the short term. Sotto voce, many politicians also assumed that the PMDB—which has been an integral player in every government since the return to democracy in 1985—would be well placed to slow the pace of the bloodletting occasioned by the massive Lava Jato investigation and stabilize the political system. Read more »

Bringing International Pressure To Bear on Nicolás Maduro

by Matthew Taylor
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (2nd L) and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (2nd R) speak next to Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Ernesto Samper (L) and former president of Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez, during their meeting at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela July 21, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins).

[This post was co-authored with John Polga-Hecimovich*. It is the third of a series that begins with this post.]

The collapse in Venezuela has many potential costs: democratic regression in Latin America; destabilization of neighboring countries, including, potentially, the fragile peace process in Colombia; the possibility of a significant migrant crisis; rising violence, corruption, and criminality; and threats to hemispheric energy security. A mix of frustration with President Nicolás Maduro’s recent moves and apprehension about the potential outcomes of the crisis has led to a frantic search for alternatives, none of which seems particularly likely to be effective on its own. The paucity of alternatives suggests that the best the international community may be able to hope for is to isolate the regime, demonstrate to moderates within the regime that there are costs to sticking with Maduro, and make efforts to ameliorate the worst humanitarian consequences of the crisis. Read more »