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 "Argentina"

A Game of Inches: The Uncertain Fight Against Corruption in Latin America

by Matthew Taylor
3 out of 3, anticorruption, Car Wash investigation, Claudia Paz y Paz, corruption, International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Matthew Stephenson, Sérgio Moro A boy holds a sign which reads, "No more corruption", during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in downtown Guatemala City, May 30, 2015 (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez).

Harvard’s inimitable Matthew Stephenson this week published a thought-provoking blog post comparing anticorruption efforts in Asia and Latin America. Crudely summarizing Stephenson’s argument, a few years ago many looked to Asia as the gold standard in anticorruption efforts, in part because of the success of independent and effective anticorruption agencies (ACAs) in the region. But recent news of political meddling with Hong Kong’s ACA, brazen kleptocracy in Malaysia’s state development fund, and efforts to water down reform in Indonesia all suggest that the pendulum is swinging in a less positive direction. By contrast, Stephenson is optimistic about the important gains made in recent years in Latin America, including by Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), Brazil’s Car Wash investigation, elections in Peru and Argentina that highlighted voter frustration with corruption, and Mexico’s “3 out of 3” reforms. Read more »

Corruption, Politics, and Corporate Transparency in Latin America

by Matthew Taylor
anticorruption, campaign spending limits, corporate donations, corporate transparency, corruption, electoral finance, illegal enrichment, influence peddling, Lava Jato, multilatinas, multinationals, Odebrecht, politics, transparency Gustavo de Hoyos (C), president of the Mexican Employers' Confederation (COPARMEX), holds a placard during a protest to demand senators to approve the original proposal of the National Anticorruption System, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico, June 16, 2016. The placard reads: "Businessmen demand to stop corruption. #SNA" (Reuters/Ginnette Riquelme).

It is Latin America’s anticorruption season. Deep beneath the waves of revulsion about scandal, graft, and the general filthiness of local politics has been a profound concern with democracy. In particular, there is a growing awareness that the dangerous liaisons between corruption and electoral finance threaten the stability and legitimacy of elected governments in the region. While there is plenty of good news about the impressive corruption busters who are shaking up settled patterns of corruption and impunity in the region, many of the underlying links between corporate transparency, corruption, and campaign finance remain deeply troubling and potentially destabilizing. 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 »

Venezuela’s Woes Reach Mercosur

by Matthew Taylor
Mercosur, trade, Pacific Alliance, Venezuela, European Union, democratic clause, Nicolas Maduro, Jose Serra, Delcy Rodriguez Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro stands in front of an image depicting the country's late President Hugo Chavez during a meeting with members of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas, in this handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace on January 29, 2016 (Reuters/Miraflores Palace).

Mercosur is under considerable internal strain. As at other times in the trade bloc’s history, shifting political winds and changing trade priorities have placed the member countries at loggerheads. The five-member organization is in the midst of what is perhaps the most severe of its periodic identity crises, exacerbated by the Left’s waning power in the region, the rise of the Pacific Alliance, and renewed member interest in external trade agreements. Read more »

The Anticorruption Boom and U.S. Foreign Policy

by Matthew Taylor
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca, FIFA, anticorruption, corruption, beneficial ownership, UK Anti-Corruption Summit, Nicholas Shaxson, tax havens, Tax Justice Network, Daniel Kaufmann, Alexandra Gillies, Shruti Shah, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, OECD Convention on Corruption British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England (Reuters/Dan Kitwood).

April and May brought some of the most important movement on the anticorruption front of any two-month period in the past decade. Recapitulating briefly:

– In April, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began release of the Panama Papers, roughly 11 million leaked documents from the Mossack Fonseca law firm detailing the creation of more than 15,000 shell companies and providing information on more than 200,000 offshore entities. The lists touched on a variety of presumably legal uses of offshore firms, but also sprayed egg on a number of prominent faces, including in Russia, Ukraine, China, the United Kingdom (UK), Spain, Chile, Argentina, Iceland, and within the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), among others. A follow-up manifesto by John Doe, the whistleblower at the heart of the leak, noted the extensive use of offshore accounts as part of a system of “massive, pervasive corruption” in the global economy. If nothing else, the Panama Papers have introduced the concept of “beneficial ownership” to a broader public, and fomented a larger discussion of how the West enables corrupt practices through loose monitoring of offshoring and financial disclosure. Read more »

Macri’s Surprising Honeymoon

by Matthew Taylor
Mauricio Macri, Argentina, Cambiemos, pragmatic Argentina's President Mauricio Macri (L) and Jujuy's Province governor Gerardo Morales (back C) dance as they take part in a carnival celebration in the Argentine northern town of Purmamarca, February 6, 2016 (Argentine Presidency/Reuters).

By all accounts, Mauricio Macri has had a remarkable honeymoon since he was inaugurated December 10, quickly moving to revise Argentina’s economic policies, restructure its relations with the world, and tackle a variety of rule of law challenges, ranging from corruption to the drug trade. President Obama’s trip to Argentina last week was in many ways the capstone to Macri’s dynamic first hundred days in office. The visit signaled a generational shift in U.S. policy toward Latin America, seeking to repair some of the worst damage done by U.S. support of the military dictatorship that took office when Obama was a teenager, but Obama and his entourage of more than four hundred business representatives were even more convincing in their strong praise for the Macri administration’s new openness to foreign investors. Read more »

Argentina’s Congress Returns

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Argentina, bond payments, cerrojo law, coparticipaciones, currency controls, economic reforms, Enacom, energy subsidies, export taxes, federal transfers, INDEC, Judge Griesa, Kirchner, labor negotiations, pago soberano law, President Macri, Sergio Massa The Chamber of Deputies at the Argentine Congress is seen during a session in Buenos Aires, September 10, 2014 (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters).

During his first two months in office Argentine President Macri pushed through reforms to eliminate currency controls, cut export taxes, and remove energy subsidies. He also appointed two new judges to the Supreme Court and enhanced the court’s oversight of security surveillance, postponed promised changes to the legal system, shuffled responsibilities within the cabinet, modified a contentious media law, and annulled a Kirchner decree transferring federal funds to the provinces. All was done without Congress, which entered its three month summer recess on November 30 (before Macri’s inauguration). This will change March 1, as the legislature comes back into session. Read more »

The Political Salience of Latin Americans’ Perceptions of Corruption

by Matthew Taylor
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index, Support Mission against Corruption and Impunity, MACCIH, International Commission Against Impunity, CICIG. corruption, impunity A demonstrator holds a scarf during a march to demand for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa August 14, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters).

Once a year, policymakers and the press are forcibly reminded of the terrible costs of corruption. This year, it fell on January 27, when Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was released, inciting the ritual gnashing of teeth and beating of chests about relative national corruption gains and losses. 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 »

South America’s Shifting Diplomatic Landscape

by Matthew Taylor
rapprochement, Cuba, U.S.-Brazil relations, Dilma Rousseff, Colombia peace talks, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, commodities boom, Mauricio Macri, Mercosur, Mauro Vieira, Susana Malcorra, pink tide countries, Democratic Unity Roundtable, Organization of American States, National Assembly, Nicolas Maduro, Unasur, BNDES, Banco do Brasil, Brazil-China Fund, Trans-Pacific Partnership, BRICS, Chinese meltdown Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra (L) and Brazil's Foreign Minister Mauro Viera speak before the Summit of Heads of State of MERCOSUR and Associated States and 49th Meeting of the Common Market Council in Luque, Paraguay, December 20, 2015 (Jorge Adorno/Reuters).

The past year has altered Latin America’s diplomatic panorama. Among the most significant changes were a U.S. policy turnaround that included U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, a reset in U.S.-Brazil relations cemented during President Dilma Rousseff’s June state visit to Washington, DC, and greater U.S. participation in the Colombian peace talks. In addition to these carefully strategized advances, a variety of far more contingent factors is converging in ways that are likely to shake up established regional alignments within South America. As the region prepares for the fourth Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit at the end of January, the rightward shift of domestic politics in the region, the woeful state of Brazil’s Rousseff government, and the Pacific turn in trade negotiations are combining in ways that may create a new set of opportunities for regional relations, and will certainly jumble the status quo. Read more »