Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Colombia"

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.

Five Questions After Colombia’s Surprising Vote Against Peace

by Matthew Taylor
Alvaro Uribe, Colombia, FARC, peace deal, plebiscite, President Juan Manuel Santos, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Timochenko People holds balloons during an event organized by supporters of the "no" vote for the upcoming Plebiscite in Bogota, Colombia, September 29, 2016 (Reuters/Felipe Caicedo).

Pollsters’ best bets were radically overturned in Colombia Sunday, as widespread apathy and torrential rains dampened turnout in the referendum on the peace deal. Opponents of the deal appeared as surprised as anyone at their own victory, triumphing by fewer than 55,000 votes in a country of 33 million voters. Abstention topped 60 percent, and the “No” side won with the support of less than one-fifth of total voters, by a margin of 0.16 percent of those eligible to vote. Read more »

Winning the Peace: Paying for Colombia’s Peace Deal

by Matthew Taylor
Colombia, plebiscite, peace deal, Si, FARC, United States, drug trade, bacrim, peace, Plan Colombia, forgiveness, ELN, President Santos Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) fighters walk at the camp where they will ratify a peace deal with the Colombian government, near El Diamantee in Yari Plains, Colombia, September 17, 2016 (Reuters/John Vizcaino).

We are ten days away from Colombia’s momentous October 2 plebiscite on the peace deal. Current polling suggests voters will choose “,” bringing to an end a war that has killed nearly a quarter of a million Colombians and displaced as many as seven million more over the past half century. But although the outlook for approving the deal is good, the battle for the peace will be far longer and more uncertain, requiring a sustained effort for years to come. Five aspects of implementation are particularly thorny, with the fifth—funding the high cost of implementing the deal—undergirding all the rest: Read more »

Credible Commitment and the Colombian Peace Plebiscite

by Matthew Taylor
Colombia, Colombian peace process, FARC, President Juan Manuel Santos, Alvaro Uribe, civil war, public ratification, peace plebiscite Colombia's lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (R) and Colombia's FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez shake hands after signing the protocol and timetable for the disarmament of the FARC in Havana, Cuba, August 5, 2016 (Reuters/Enrique de la Osa).

The Colombian peace process began in 2012, and by June 2016, appeared to have reached preliminary agreement on a deal that would result in the cessation of hostilities, ending a war that has killed more than a quarter of a million Colombians. Yet somewhat surprisingly, while the deal was initially celebrated as a milestone, recent polling suggests that a declining share of Colombians would actually support it: 39 percent in August, down from 56 percent in July. Read more »

Latin America’s Ninis

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Latin America, World Bank, Ninis, inequality, demographic bonus, violence, conditional cash transfers, job training, entrepreneurship programs, employment services, regional economic downturn Young people rest on a sidewalk in Mexico City May 9, 2011. While many nations fret about their aging populations, Mexico may be frittering away its abundant youth with legions of jobless dropouts known here as NiNi. Short for "Ni trabaja, Ni estudia" (neither works nor studies), the term NiNi has become shorthand for young Mexicans without jobs who have given up on their education (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters).

18 million Latin Americans—1 in 5 of those between the ages of 15 and 24—neither work nor attend school. Commonly dubbed “ninis” (ni estudian ni trabajan), a new World Bank report looks at this phenomenon across the region. 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 »

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 »

Review of State Building in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Hillel Soifer, State Building in Latin America, state capacity Cambridge University Press, 2015

Hillel Soifer’s new book, State Building in Latin America, presents an interesting historical perspective on today’s current state capacity in Latin America, and why some countries are so much better able than others to not just control territory but also to deliver for their people. 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 »