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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Open Questions about Latin American Relations During the Trump Administration

by Matthew Taylor
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto walk out after finishing a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016 (Reuters/Henry Romero). U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto walk out after finishing a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016 (Reuters/Henry Romero).

We know very little about who will run Western Hemisphere affairs under the Trump administration. So far, the only named appointees are Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director Craig Deare. There are as yet no nominees for key Western Hemisphere positions at State, Defense, or Commerce, which is not unexpected for an administration this young. Although the Latin America team is not fully formed, the pressing Latin America agenda – which will get underway in earnest with today’s visit by a Mexican delegation – suggests that it is well worth reflecting on the central questions likely to determine the trajectory of the region during Trump’s presidency: Read more »

Three Factors Driving Venezuela’s Impasse

by Matthew Taylor
Demonstrators clash with members of Venezuelan National Guard during a rally demanding a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela October 26, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez).

[This post was co-authored with John Polga-Hecimovich*]

The increasingly dangerous crisis in Venezuela (described in the first post of this series), has been complicated by the political economy of the Chavista regime. Three aspects of the regime as it has evolved under the Nicolás Maduro government are particularly important to understanding where things stand: the policy centrality of the country’s impending debt default; the absence of an adequate exit strategy for many members of the regime; and the central role of the military as a likely guarantor of any solution to the crisis. Read more »

Five Questions With Geraldine Knatz: The Panama Canal Expansion and the Evolution of Global Trade

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
Panama Canal, shipping industry, global trade, ocean carrier industry, Ocean Alliance, ports, We Can't Wait, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act People wave at a Chinese COSCO container vessel, as it arrives to Cocoli locks after crossing the Panama Canal to the Pacific side, during its first ceremonial transit of the new Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama June 26, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Jasso).

As the first ship goes through the expanded Panama Canal, we sat down with Geraldine Knatz, former director of the Port of Los Angeles and now a professor of policy and engineering at the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. Dr. Knatz talked about changes in the shipping industry, trends affecting U.S. ports, and what the canal expansion will mean for trade globally. 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »