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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United States and Mexico Finally Resolve Cross-Border Trucking Issue

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexican trucking, Mexican carriers, NAFTA, pilot program California Air Resources field representative Valente Armenta works a checkpoint set up to inspect heavy-duty trucks traveling near the Mexican-U.S. border in Otay Mesa, California September 10, 2013. California Highway Patrol and the Air Resources Board were inspecting trucks for compliance to California's air pollution laws (Mike Blake/Courtesy Reuters).

For the twenty years since the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States failed to fulfill its treaty obligations to open its roads and permit safe cross-border services. As part of the original agreement, Mexican trucks were supposed to be able to operate in four U.S. states—Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona—by December 1995, and then throughout the continental United States by January 1, 2000. Almost fifteen years later, the vast majority of Mexican trucks are still not allowed on U.S. roads. Mexico retaliated in kind, blocking the movement of U.S. trucks within its borders. In 2009, Mexico also applied retaliatory tariffs on a yearly rotating basis to a variety of U.S. imports, permitted by a favorable 2001 NAFTA dispute settlement panel ruling. Read more »

Elections to Watch in 2015

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Latin America Elections 2015 Argentina's current president and presidential candidate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner listens to Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli (L) during a visit to the Luchetti noodle factory in Buenos Aires, October 20, 2011. Argentine President Fernandez looks set to win easy re-election on Sunday after a dramatic comeback that has confounded critics of her unconventional economic policies and combative style. A center-leftist who has given the state a leading role in the economy, Fernandez has rebounded from low approval ratings and angry protests by farmers and middle-class voters that erupted early in her first term. Polls show she could win more than 50 percent of the vote on Sunday (Martin Acosta/Courtesy Reuters).

The region will hold just two presidential elections this year, choosing new leaders in Guatemala and Argentina. More prevalent will be congressional and local elections. Midterms in Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia in particular may prove bellwethers for the direction of these three important regional economies. Read more »

Panama Twenty-Five Years Later

by Shannon K. O'Neil
U.S. Invasion of Panama, Operation Just Cause U.S. troops take up positions outside the external relations ministry during the invasion of Panama on December 22, 1989 (Roberto Armocida/Courtesy Reuters).

December 20 marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Just Cause, better remembered as the U.S. invasion of Panama. Set off by the death of an off-duty Marine lieutenant by Panamanian security forces, the invasion represented the final step in a deteriorating relationship between the United States and Manuel Noriega—once a CIA informant and close ally, later a defiant dictator, undone by the winding down of the Cold War and his own brazen corruption. The lopsided confrontation ended by early January of 1990, when Noriega surrendered to U.S. authorities. He was then extradited, tried, convicted, and eventually sentenced to twenty years in U.S. federal prison for drug-trafficking, racketeering, and money-laundering. Read more »

Spillovers From Falling Oil Prices: Risks to Mexico and the United States

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico, Pemex, Oil prices Refinery workers walk at one of the facility's catalytic plants, used to convert heavy hydrocarbon crude oil fractions into lighter gasoline and diesel in Tula November 21, 2013. Mexico's oil refining industry, saddled for years with bloated costs, chronic underinvestment and generous government fuel subsidies, ought to be on the verge of a bright new dawn. A shake-up last month dismantled the state-run Pemex oil and gas monopoly, ending decades of stubborn self-reliance and potentially opening the door to foreign oil companies (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters).

Geopolitically, U.S. policymakers generally see high oil prices as bad and low oil prices as good for national interests. In a CFR Working Paper I coauthored with Michael Levi and Alexandra Mahler-Haug we find a sustained drop in oil prices will affect at least one of the United States’ closest trading partners and geopolitical allies negatively: Mexico. Read more »

Taking on Mexico’s Corruption

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico, Corruption, Iguala A girl holds a candle during a protest for the forty-three missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College Raul Isidro Burgos, in Chilpancingo, October 30, 2014. The students disappeared in Iguala on September 26 after they clashed with police and masked men. Security forces have combed the area around Iguala in search of the students, whose disappearance has sparked massive protest marches in Mexico and which has become arguably the sternest challenge yet to face Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (Daniel Becerril/Courtesy Reuters).

Nearly two months ago, forty-three student teachers were murdered in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. It was later discovered that the city’s corrupt mayor had had the students arrested and then turned over to a local criminal organization. In this piece published last week in Spanish in El Financiero, I lay out what the federal government can and should do to tackle corruption. You can read the piece in English below:  Read more »

Social Mobility in Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico, social mobility A boy walks past a mural depicting a child shooting an RPG loaded with school supplies in Ciudad Juarez February 10, 2012. The word reads, "Education" (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this month, the Espinosa Yglesias Research Centre (CEEY) launched the English version of its most recent report on social mobility in Mexico. Creating a measure that combines 2011 household assets and occupational status, they find both good and bad news for aspiring Mexicans. For those in the middle, chances of moving up (or down) are somewhat encouraging, as only a quarter will end up in the same economic group as their parents. But on the richer and poorer ends, the chances of intergenerational change are much lower—only one out of every two individuals will lead an economically different life. Read more »

North America by the Numbers

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Oil Pipelines Pipelines carrying steam to wellheads and heavy oil back to the processing plant line the roads and boreal forest at the Cenovus Energy Christina Lake Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) project 120 km (74 miles) south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, August 15, 2013. Cenovus currently produces 100,000 barrels of heavy oil per day at their Christina Lake tar sands project (Todd Korol/Courtesy Reuters).

How much do Canada and Mexico matter for the United States? Here are a few snapshots illustrating the importance of our combined global heft and influence.

  • North American countries are joined by 7,500 miles of land borders, among the longest in the world.
  • Though comprising less than 7 percent of the world’s population, Canada, Mexico and the United States produce nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP—some 20 trillion dollars.
  • Read more »

A Runoff for Brazil’s Rousseff and Neves

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Brazil presidential elections 2014 Brazil's presidential candidates Aecio Neves (R) of Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) and Dilma Rousseff of Workers Party (PT) take part in a TV debate in Rio de Janeiro October 2, 2014. Brazil will be be holding its general elections on October 5, to elect the country's National Congress, president, state governors and state legislatures (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff won the first–round of the 2014 presidential election yesterday with almost 42 percent of the vote. The real surprise of the contest, however, came in Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) nominee Aecio Neves’s impressive second place finish, capturing a third of voters and surpassing Marina Silva of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). Although Neves’s polling numbers had risen in the election lead–up, few expected such a strong showing. Read more »

North America: Time for a New Focus

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Task Force on North America U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) as Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto looks on after attending a news conference, at the North American Leaders' Summit in Toluca near Mexico City, February 19, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters).

Today I am pleased to launch CFR’s Independent Task Force on North America. I have been working with co-chairs David H. Petraeus and Robert Zoellick, as well as some twenty other Task Force members and observers, over the past year to better understand the myriad issues facing Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and to make concrete policy recommendations for the U.S. government to strengthen the region. We find that while not always the most urgent of policy issues, North America is as vitally important to the United States’ future. Read more »

A Conversation with Enrique Peña Nieto

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Enrique Pena Nieto (Don Pollard/Courtesy Don Pollard Photo).

Yesterday, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico joined us at the Council on Foreign Relations as part of the Russel C. Leffingwell Lecture series. In a conversation with Robert Rubin, Co-Chairman of CFR, President Peña Nieto discussed the progress of the reforms initiated under his administration and current developments in his country. Read more »