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 "Brazil"

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 »

Guest Post: The Petrobras Corruption Scandal and Brazil’s Ethanol Sector

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
Brazil, Petrobras, corruption, scandal, ethanol, hydrous ethanol, Brazilian Development Bank Sugar cane is harvested at a plantation of Da Mata, the Brazilian sugar cane processor, in Valparaiso, 355 miles northwest of Sao Paulo September 18, 2014. Brazil, one of the world's largest producers and exporters of sugar and ethanol, is a pioneer in the use of sugar cane-derived ethanol to power cars (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters).

This is a guest post by Luis Ferreira Alvarez, an analyst with Stratas Advisors’ Global Biofuels Assessment and Global Alternative Fuels divisions covering Latin America.  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, 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 »

The Case Against Rousseff’s Impeachment

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Dilma Rousseff, Corruption, Petrobras, Lava Jato, Car Wash, Eduardo Cunha A vendor hangs shirts reading "Out, Dilma" during a protest against Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff in Sao Paulo April 12, 2015. Almost two thirds of Brazilians favor the impeachment of Rousseff over a corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras, but roughly as many doubt it would drive her from office, according to a poll released on Saturday (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters).

As President Dilma Rousseff’s polling numbers fall far into the single digits, the calls for her impeachment grow louder. In Congress, PMDB lower house head Eduardo Cunha has broken with Rousseff, intimating his support for her removal. On the streets protestors too call for a change, marching by the hundreds of thousands to express their anger and frustration. Read more »

Infrastructure on Rousseff’s Agenda

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
Brazil, Infrastructure, Dilma Rousseff, Programa de Investimentos em Logística (PIL), 2016 Olympics, BNDES An aerial view of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games athletes village, which is under construction in Rio de Janeiro February 26, 2015. Rio de Janeiro must keep up the pace of delivery if it is to complete venues before scheduled Olympic test events as it enters "the most intense period of preparations," the IOC said on Wednesday (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters).

This is a guest post by Emilie Sweigart, an intern here at the Council on Foreign Relations who works with me in the Latin America Studies program.

Even as Brazil pushes forward austerity measures and entitlement reductions, the administration of President Dilma Rousseff is hoping to increase infrastructure investment. The recently announced Programa de Investimentos em Logística (PIL) would launch nearly R$200 billion (USD$64 billion) in concessions for rail (R$86.4 billion), roads (R$66.1 billion), ports (R$37.4 billion), and airports (R$8.5 billion). Roughly a third would be completed by 2018, when Rousseff will leave office. Read more »

Economic Clusters, Productivity, and Growth in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Alfred Marshall, Michael Porter, Queretaro aerospace, Chile salmon, Start-Up Chile, Clusters Workers places salmon carcasses into a box to be sent to the world market at the Acuinova Chile salmonera company located some 1,625 km south of Santiago March 5, 2009 (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters).

This post was co-authored by Gilberto Garcia, research associate for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

How can countries boost productivity and economic competitiveness? Many economists and business leaders turn to economic clusters as an answer. Read more »

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Foreign Direct Investment, Latin America A Venezuelan worker assembles a motorcycle made of Chinese parts at the Empire Keeway factory in Charallave, outside Caracas December 14, 2011. Every time that Beijing turns the gear of their loans to Caracas, thousands of barrels of oil are shipped to Asia, get tons of goods to South America and create dozens of companies as part of an oiled mechanism that gives millions of dollars to the Government of Hugo Chavez and great benefits to the Eastern giant (Jorge Silva/Reuters).

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America fell in 2014, down 16 percent to $159 billion according to the latest ECLAC report. This outpaced global declines closer to 7 percent, and fell far behind other emerging markets, which saw investments rise 5 percent on average, and 15 percent in Asia. Read more »

China’s RMB Swap Lines with Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
China, Argentina, swap lines Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands and face the media after signing documents during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing February 4, 2015 (Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters).

My colleagues Benn Steil and Dinah Walker recently published a great interactive on the spread of central bank currency swaps since the financial crisis. They find the United States provided developing nations with significant support through swap lines at the height of the financial crisis, but that China has been the most active extender of swap lines since 2009. China now has thirty-one swap agreements outstanding. Read more »