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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Immigration Reform Is Happening

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Honduran national Maria (no last name given) kisses Daniel, 4, with Alejandra, 7, and Marvin, 5, (R-L) as she waits in an isolation cell after she was caught attempting an undocumented entry into the U.S. from Mexico in Laredo, Texas, May 3, 2006 (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters). Honduran national Maria (no last name given) kisses Daniel, 4, with Alejandra, 7, and Marvin, 5, (R-L) as she waits in an isolation cell after she was caught attempting an undocumented entry into the U.S. from Mexico in Laredo, Texas, May 3, 2006 (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters).

Despite the standstill in Congress on immigration reform, state and local governments have been very active in passing their own immigration legislation. In this article for Foreign Policy, I look at what different states and cities are doing regarding immigration and the effects of their policies. You can read the beginning of the piece below:  Read more »

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America Holds Steady in 2013

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Robots weld cars at the Ford Motor Company's Sao Bernardo do Campo facility in Sao Bernardo do Campo, June 14, 2012 (Paulo Whitaker/Courtesy Reuters). Robots weld cars at the Ford Motor Company's Sao Bernardo do Campo facility in Sao Bernardo do Campo, June 14, 2012 (Paulo Whitaker/Courtesy Reuters).

In 2013, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America reached $185 billion according to the latest ECLAC report, continuing the slight upward trend of the last three years. Brazil maintained its number one position as the largest FDI destination, raking in $64 billion (over one third of all regional FDI). Mexico came in second, with some $38 billion (boosted by the $13 billion purchase of the rest of Modelo by Belgian based Anheuser-Busch InBev, a company run by Brazilians). Mexico’s Pacific Alliance partners—Chile, Colombia, Peru—also had a fruitful year, with a combined $47 billion in investment. And despite its economic woes, Argentina garnered $9 billion. Read more »

Will the World Cup Actually Help Brazil to Solve Its Problems?

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Residents run to celebrate after decorating a street in the colours of Brazil’s national flag, ahead of the 2014 World Cup, in the Taguatinga neighbourhood of Brasilia, June 8, 2014 (Ueslei Marcelino/Courtesy Reuters). Residents run to celebrate after decorating a street in the colours of Brazil’s national flag, ahead of the 2014 World Cup, in the Taguatinga neighbourhood of Brasilia, June 8, 2014 (Ueslei Marcelino/Courtesy Reuters).

In the lead-up to the World Cup and through the first games, Brazilians have taken to the streets in protest. In this post for Daniel Altman on ForeignPolicy.com, I look at why these demands for change could help Brazil overcome its many domestic problems. The post begins: Read more »

Immigration Reform Is Dead, Precisely When We Need It Most

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who just disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a Greyhound bus station in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2014 (Samantha Sais/Courtesy Reuters). Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who just disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a Greyhound bus station in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2014 (Samantha Sais/Courtesy Reuters).

With Eric Cantor’s loss earlier this week, most believe immigration reform is dead. Yet with tens of thousands of Mexican and Central American children flooding across the U.S. southern border, a legislative overhaul is even more important. In this piece for Foreign Policy, I look at why these kids are coming and what we need to do about it. You can read the beginning of the piece below: Read more »

Mexico Energy Talks

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Pemex Engineers Two engineers with Mexico's state owned oil company, PEMEX (Petroleos de Mexico), watch work on an oil platform in the Sen oil field, in the swampy south eastern state of Tabasco, September 20, 2000 (Andrew Winning/Courtesy Reuters).

I recently had the opportunity, along with Vianovo’s James Taylor,  to chat with Mexican Congressman Javier Treviño, one of the country’s energy reform leaders. We focused on what investors and analysts can expect from the secondary legislation currently being hammered out in Mexico’s Congress—touching on the development of Mexico’s new energy model, national content requirements, the role of state and local governments, and environmental and security considerations. Read more »

Mexico’s Oil and Taxes

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Pemex reform and Mexico's Taxes The logo of Mexican petroleum company Pemex is seen on a tank gas at gas station in Mexico City, November 23, 2012 (Edgard Garrido/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the last three decades, oil’s importance in the Mexican economy has diminished, with energy products shrinking from over three-quarters of all exports in 1982 to less than 15 percent in 2012. Still energy’s role in Mexico’s politics has not receded, in part due to the federal budget’s dependence on the sector—taxes and royalties comprise roughly a third of total inflows into government coffers. As the Congress negotiates the secondary legislation that will set the ground rules for opening up the energy sector in Mexico, the government will have to address this dependence as well, weaning itself from Pemex’s largesse. Read more »

Mexico as a Global Player

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Foreign Affairs Conference (Don Pollard). Foreign Affairs Conference (Don Pollard).

Last week, Foreign Affairs hosted a full day conference on Mexico, to talk about the country as a regional and global player. Panel topics included U.S.-Mexico cooperation, bilateral trade, regional immigration, and Mexico’s social inclusion and education system. You can find the full agenda here. Read more »

S&P’s Brazil Downgrade: Why it Matters

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during the signing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro's international airport concession in Rio de Janeiro, April 2, 2014 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters). Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during the signing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro's international airport concession in Rio de Janeiro, April 2, 2014 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

In a widely expected move, the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) downgraded Brazil’s long term debt from a credit ranking of BBB to BBB- on March 24, bringing the country’s sovereign bonds a step closer to losing their “investment grade status” (defined as BBB- or above) and becoming “speculative” or “junk bonds.” The rating stems from a combination of indicators—including GDP growth, inflation, and external debt—that S&P uses to measure a country’s creditworthiness and its fiscal, regulatory, and political risks. Read more »

A Primer: Mexico’s Energy Reform

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Employees walk on a bridge at the Mexico’s state-run oil monopoly Pemex platform “Ku Maloob Zaap” in the Northeast Marine Region of Pemex Exploration and Production in the Bay of Campeche April 19, 2013 (Victor Ruiz/Courtesy Reuters). Employees walk on a bridge at the Mexico’s state-run oil monopoly Pemex platform “Ku Maloob Zaap” in the Northeast Marine Region of Pemex Exploration and Production in the Bay of Campeche April 19, 2013 (Victor Ruiz/Courtesy Reuters).

This past December, Mexico passed a historic energy reform that has the potential to fundamentally transform the country’s oil, gas, and electricity sectors. In this brief that I co-authored with James Taylor, founding partner at Vianovo, we lay out the importance of the soon-to-be-announced secondary legislation, provide an outline of the newly formed regulatory regime, and explore the types of opportunities that the reform will create. Read more »

This Year’s Presidential Elections in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Voters wait in line to cast their vote in a presidential election runoff at a polling station outside in San Salvador March 9, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters). Voters wait in line to cast their vote in a presidential election runoff at a polling station outside in San Salvador March 9, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this week, Salvadorans headed to the polls to cast their ballots in a presidential runoff election, since on February 2 the candidates failed to reach the 50 percent threshold to avoid a second round. In the runoff’s lead up, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former guerrilla commander and the current vice president from the ruling party, looked poised for an easy win over his closest opponent Norman Quijano from the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). But with the final ballot count separating the candidates by some 0.2 percent of the votes and with allegations of fraud, it seems that the protests and debates surrounding this election are far from over. Read more »