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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The Hidden Refugee Crisis in the Western Hemisphere

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Haitians migrants wait to make their way to the U.S. and seek asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, July 15, 2016 (Reuters/Jorge Duenes). Haitians migrants wait to make their way to the U.S. and seek asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, July 15, 2016 (Reuters/Jorge Duenes).

While much attention is rightly focused on Syria and the Middle East, there are a growing number of refugees in the Western Hemisphere.

The largest group comes from Central America’s Northern Triangle—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. For each of the past three years between 300,000 and 450,000 Central Americans have fled north. Of these, between 45,000 and 75,000 are unaccompanied children; another 120,000 to 180,000 families (usually a mother with children); and between 130,000 to 200,000 single adults. These numbers peaked in May and June 2014 when more than 8,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border each month. 2016 numbers are again rising, with August inflows higher than ever before. Read more »

Latin America’s Populist Hangover

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Alberto Fujimori, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Carlos Menem, corruption, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Ecuador, Evo Morales, Getulio Vargas, Guatemala, Honduras, Hugo Chavez, Jimmy Morales, Juan Orlando Hernandez, Juan Peron, Latin America, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Mexico, Nestor Kirchner, Nicolas Maduro, Otto Perez-Molina, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru, populism, Rafael Correa, Venezuela Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waves to supporters from a balcony after a ceremony at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires on May 4, 2015 (Reuters/Argentine Presidency).

In my piece published in the November/December 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs, I lay out the economic and political characteristics of populism, analyze why it is receding in Latin America today, and describe what a next wave might look like. I also argue that Latin America’s historical experience with populism provides some bracing warnings to other countries now flirting with such politics. You can read the first three paragraphs of the article below: Read more »

Interview With Jim Zirin: Current Events in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Jim Zirin, Conversations in the Digital Age, United States, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, U.S.-Mexico relations, peace deal, impeachment (Courtesy Jim Zirin)

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining Jim Zirin on “Conversations in the Digital Age” to discuss the U.S.-Mexico relationship, the presidential impeachment in Brazil, Colombia’s peace deal, Argentina’s return to global markets, and the turmoil in Venezuela. You can watch the interview here.

Mexico’s Corrupt Governors

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico, corruption, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Chihuahua, Durango, PRI, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Aguascalientes, Javier Duarte, Roberto Borge, Cesar Duarte, Miguel Alonso, Gabino Cue, Francisco Olvera, Carlos Lozano, PAN, PGR, SAT, nepotism, money laundering, embezzlement, money laundering, illicit enrichment, fraud, anticorruption Javier Duarte, governor of the state of Veracruz, attends a news conference in Xalapa, Mexico, August 10, 2015 (Reuters/Stringer).

Last June, Mexico elected new governors in twelve of its thirty-one states. As millions of voters went to the urns, corruption was a top concern (along with insecurity). Eight states saw the incumbent party kicked out; in four—Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Chihuahua, and Durango—the PRI lost for the first time in the party’s history. Read more »

Argentina and Brazil Grow Together

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Argentina, Brazil, corruption, global supply chains, high expectations, Mauricio Macri, Michel Temer, reform, South America, stagnant growth, trade Hundreds of cars stand in the port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 1, 2015 (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes).

In my piece published this week on Foreignaffairs.com I reflect on Argentina’s and Brazil’s current political and economic situations. I argue that while their current challenges are their own, a potential long-term solution to their problems comes from each other—namely working to build an integrated South American economic hub. You can read the first two paragraphs of the article below: Read more »

How Americans See Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Donald Trump, Immigration, Justin Trudeau, manufacturing, Mexico, NAFTA, North America, Ottawa, supply chains, Vianovo (Courtesy Vianovo and GSD&M)

The three North American leaders meet tomorrow in Ottawa, the new Trudeau government reviving an annual summit. As a recent poll of U.S. perceptions of its neighbors by Vianovo and GSD&M confirms, they face public opinion headwinds. Canvassing 1,000 U.S. adults through YouGov, the survey reveals the deep suspicions Americans hold of their neighbors, especially Mexico. Read more »

Mexico’s Gubernatorial Elections

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico, PRI, PAN, MORENA, PRD, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, gubernatorial elections, governor, governorships, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Ricardo Anaya, corruption, National Anti-Corruption System, Ley 3de3, Nuevo Leon A woman casts her ballot during the election of sixty deputies, to form the Constituent Assembly that will create a constitution for Mexico City, in Mexico City, Mexico, June 5, 2016 (Reuters/Edgard Garrido). 

Mexico’s PRI lost big in yesterday’s gubernatorial elections. Just six months ago party optimists boasted they might sweep all twelve of the governorships; preliminary results show they may get just five. The rout happened in places with the strongest party machines—Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Quintana Roo—where for the first time in over eighty years citizens put a different party in the executive branch. This alternation in power is an important step for local democracy. Read more »

Measuring Mexico’s Social Cohesion

by Shannon K. O'Neil
social cohesion, social fabric, violence, Mexico, Mexico Evalua, Neighborhood Social Cohesion Index, insecurity, Merida Initiative, United States A low-income neighborhood is seen in Mexico City, July 23, 2015 (Reuters/Edgard Garrido).

Social cohesion, or the strength of a country’s social fabric, is often raised in discussions of security. The World Bank describes it as “fundamental for societies to progress towards development goals,” and for making countries more resilient to bloodshed. In Mexico, policymakers argue social cohesion is both a casualty and a solution for reducing violence. Read more »

Migration From Central America Rising

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Central America, Northern Triangle, violence, homicides, dangerous, migration, U.S. border patrol, unaccompanied minors, International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACIH), Berta Caceres Children from Honduras, who will be accompanied by their families when they travel to reach northern Mexico or the U.S., have their meals at the Todo por ellos (All for them) immigrant shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas, in southern Mexico, June 26, 2014. Thousands of young people and families are hoping to reach the U.S. from their impoverished and violent homes in Central America (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez).

Central America’s Northern Triangle is one of the most violent regions in the world. Last year’s murder rate of roughly 54 per 100,000 inhabitants surpasses Iraq’s civilian death toll. El Salvador alone registered 103 homicides per 100,000—making it the deadliest peacetime country. While victims are often young men, women and children die too. Kids face a murder rate of 27 per 100,000 in El Salvador—making the country as dangerous for elementary and middle schoolers as it is for an adult in the toughest neighborhoods of Detroit or New Orleans. Its neighbors Honduras and Guatemala are also among not just Latin America’s but the world’s most dangerous nations. Read more »

CFR Conference Call: Brazil Update

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, Impeachment Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a news conference for foreign journalists at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil April 19, 2016 (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters).

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk with Michael T. Derham, a partner with Novam Portam, about the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and Brazil’s possible paths forward. You can listen to our conversation here.