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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Latin America’s Ninis

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Latin America, World Bank, Ninis, inequality, demographic bonus, violence, conditional cash transfers, job training, entrepreneurship programs, employment services, regional economic downturn Young people rest on a sidewalk in Mexico City May 9, 2011. While many nations fret about their aging populations, Mexico may be frittering away its abundant youth with legions of jobless dropouts known here as NiNi. Short for "Ni trabaja, Ni estudia" (neither works nor studies), the term NiNi has become shorthand for young Mexicans without jobs who have given up on their education (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters).

18 million Latin Americans—1 in 5 of those between the ages of 15 and 24—neither work nor attend school. Commonly dubbed “ninis” (ni estudian ni trabajan), a new World Bank report looks at this phenomenon across the region. Read more »

Opportunities for U.S. Engagement in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Latin America, Pacific Alliance, Colombia's peace negotiations, Luis Almagro, Cuba, Mexico's judicial reforms, anticorruption, Global Magnitsky Act, rule of law, North America, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Central America Regional Security Initiative, International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, Alliance for Prosperity (Courtesy U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations)

Last week, I had the privilege of testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at a hearing titled “Political and Economic Developments in Latin America and Opportunities for U.S. Engagement.” Also joining me before the committee were Thomas McLarty, chairman of McLarty Associates, and Eric Farnsworth, vice president of Americas Society and Council of the Americas. Read more »

A Conversation With Mark Jones and Kellie Meiman Hock

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Argentina, President Mauricio Macri Argentina's President Mauricio Macri holds the symbolic leader's staff next to Vice-President Gabriela Michetti (L) and Senate provisional president Federico Pinedo (R) at Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 10, 2015 (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters).

This post features Mark P. Jones, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s political science fellow and Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin America Studies at Rice University, and Kellie Meiman Hock, managing partner and director of the Brazil and Southern Cone and trade practices at McLarty Associates. Latin America’s Moment recently sat down with Jones and Meiman Hock to discuss Argentina’s outlook. Read more »

New Argentine President Macri’s Economic Challenges

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mauricio Macri, Argentina Mauricio Macri, presidential candidate of the Cambiemos (Let's Change) coalition, with his daughter Antonia on his shoulders, and his wife Juliana Awada wave to supporters after the presidential election in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 22, 2015. Conservative opposition candidate Macri comfortably won Argentina's presidential election on Sunday after promising business-friendly reforms to spur investment in the struggling economy (Ivan Alvarado/ Reuters).

Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires and leader of the Cambiemos coalition, won yesterday’s presidential run-off, becoming the first non-Peronist president in nearly fifteen years. From his start on December 10 he will face several severe economic challenges: Read more »

Latin America v. Citizens United

by Shannon K. O'Neil
corporate contributions, political corruption, transparency, Operation Carwash, campaign finance, Sheldon Adelson, super PACs, Brazil Supreme Court, Citizens United, Brazil's President Supreme Court's Ricardo Lewandowski, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot and Brazil's Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo sing the Brazilian national anthem during the ceremony to reappoint to the position of Prosecutor General of the Republic at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, September 17, 2015 (L to R) (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters).

In a post originally published on ForeignPolicy.com, Shannon O’Neil explains what Brazil and the rest of Latin America can teach the United States about keeping unregulated donations out of elections. Read more »

Latin America’s Middle Class

by Shannon K. O'Neil
middle class, commodity boom, conditional cash transfers, private consumption A woman looks at washing machines in an electrical appliances store in Buenos Aires, Argentina June 22, 2015. On top of that came one of the biggest crises of President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher's presidency at the start of this year when a state prosecutor who accused her of criminal behavior was found dead. Yet voters' memories are short, say political analysts, and the success of the government's unorthodox measures to stabilize the economy and boost consumption is giving it a lift in popularity (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters).

The first decade of the 21st century was a good one for Latin America. A recent Pew Research Center report estimates that some 63 million individuals entered the middle class, measured as earning between ten and twenty dollars a day. Add in the 36 million more members of the upper-middle class, and 47 percent of those in South America—a near majority—are no longer poor. Mexico brought over 10 million people into its middle ranks during the decade, raising the combined share of the middle and upper classes to roughly 38 percent of the population. Read more »

Taking on Corruption in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
President Perez Molina, corruption, anti-corruption, influence peddling, embezzlement, CICIG Guatemala's former President Otto Perez Molina gestures while being escorted by police officers after a hearing at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, September 3, 2015. Perez resigned his presidency and turned himself in to a court on Thursday to face charges in a corruption scandal that gutted his government and plunged the country into chaos days before a presidential election. Congress, in an emergency session, approved the resignation of Perez, a 64-year-old retired general who quit overnight. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado will fill out the remaining months of Perez' term (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters).

2015 is shaping up to be the anti-corruption year for Latin America. After resigning last week in the face of a growing corruption scandal, Guatemalan President Pérez Molina now faces trial and potentially jail. Investigations into government corruption have disrupted politics as usual in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, while scandals continue to unfold in Argentina and Panama. Read more »

Argentina’s Presidential Primaries

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Daniel Scioli (R), governor of the Argentine province of Buenos Aires stands by Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner at the Casa Rosada Government House in Buenos Aires, February 11, 2015. Scioli, the front-running candidate for the ruling party ticket in Argentina's presidential election, has a new buzz word: "gradualismo", or "gradual change". It is hardly a slogan to set the campaign trail ablaze ahead of the October 25, 2015 election. Instead it illustrates the tightrope act he needs to pull off as he tries to win the support of outgoing leftist President Fernandez's loyalists while tapping a rich vein of undecided voters demanding change (Enrique Marcarian/Reuters). Daniel Scioli (R), governor of the Argentine province of Buenos Aires stands by Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner at the Casa Rosada Government House in Buenos Aires, February 11, 2015. Scioli, the front-running candidate for the ruling party ticket in Argentina's presidential election, has a new buzz word: "gradualismo", or "gradual change". It is hardly a slogan to set the campaign trail ablaze ahead of the October 25, 2015 election. Instead it illustrates the tightrope act he needs to pull off as he tries to win the support of outgoing leftist President Fernandez's loyalists while tapping a rich vein of undecided voters demanding change (Enrique Marcarian/Reuters).

In yesterday’s presidential primaries Daniel Scioli unsurprisingly won the Peronist Frente para la Victoria (FPV) party primary, backed by Cristina Kirchner, with 38 percent of the total vote. The Cambiemos coalition, dominated by the PRO party, nominated current Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri (30 percent). And Sergio Massa became the candidate for the UNA coalition, comprised of dissident Peronists (21 percent). On September 20, the three will begin their official campaigns for the October 25 presidential election (with a potential runoff on November 22). The results reflect a long holding Argentine maxim: when united the Peronists are impossible to beat. Read more »

Review of State Building in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Hillel Soifer, State Building in Latin America, state capacity Cambridge University Press, 2015

Hillel Soifer’s new book, State Building in Latin America, presents an interesting historical perspective on today’s current state capacity in Latin America, and why some countries are so much better able than others to not just control territory but also to deliver for their people. Read more »