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 "Guatemala"

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 »

Migration From Central America Rising

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Central America, Northern Triangle, violence, homicides, dangerous, migration, U.S. border patrol, unaccompanied minors, International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACIH), Berta Caceres Children from Honduras, who will be accompanied by their families when they travel to reach northern Mexico or the U.S., have their meals at the Todo por ellos (All for them) immigrant shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas, in southern Mexico, June 26, 2014. Thousands of young people and families are hoping to reach the U.S. from their impoverished and violent homes in Central America (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez).

Central America’s Northern Triangle is one of the most violent regions in the world. Last year’s murder rate of roughly 54 per 100,000 inhabitants surpasses Iraq’s civilian death toll. El Salvador alone registered 103 homicides per 100,000—making it the deadliest peacetime country. While victims are often young men, women and children die too. Kids face a murder rate of 27 per 100,000 in El Salvador—making the country as dangerous for elementary and middle schoolers as it is for an adult in the toughest neighborhoods of Detroit or New Orleans. Its neighbors Honduras and Guatemala are also among not just Latin America’s but the world’s most dangerous nations. Read more »

Five Things Washington Should Do to Help Latin America Curb Corruption

by Guest Blogger for Matthew Taylor
Corruption, Latin America, Operation car Wash, U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, antimoney laundering, Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, International Center for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), U.S. real estate market Paraguayan prosecutors Hernan Galeano (C), Federico Espinoza (center, R) and Chief Prosecutor Roberto Zacarias hold a news conference in Asuncion, January 8, 2016. Paraguayan state prosecutors on Thursday raided the headquarters of South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL after a request for cooperation from U.S. justice officials probing corruption inside world soccer, the prosecution office said (Jorge Adorno/Reuters).

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Richard Messick, an anticorruption specialist. It is based on a talk he gave at a CFR roundtable on March 24 hosted by Matthew M. Taylor, adjunct senior fellow for Latin America Studies.

One of the most promising developments in U.S. foreign relations is the all-out war on corruption being waged across Latin America. From “Operation Car Wash” in Brazil to investigations of presidential wrongdoing in Bolivia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama, across the region independent, tenacious prosecutors and investigators are out to end the massive theft of state resources that for so long has hobbled political development and throttled economic growth. The United States should be cheering for these corruption warriors, for we have much to gain if they succeed. Less corruption translates into more stable, reliable political allies; it means faster, more equitable growth and that means shared prosperity and less northward migration. Finally, less corruption in government will offer U.S. firms new opportunities. Think what the end of corruption in Brazilian public works would mean for U.S. engineering and construction companies. 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 »

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 »

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 »

Central America’s Unaccompanied Minors

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Central America, Unaccompanied Minors, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador Women and their children wait in line to register at the Honduran Center for Returned Migrants after being deported from Mexico, in San Pedro Sula, northern Honduras June 20, 2014. Thousands of young people are hoping to reach the U.S. from their impoverished and violent homes in Central America. In the eight months ended June 15, the U.S. has detained about 52,000 children at the Mexican border, double the figure the year earlier. There is no telling how many have gotten through (Jorge Cabrera/Courtesy Reuters).

During the summer of 2014 tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors surged across the U.S-Mexico border. Over the course of the fiscal year, nearly 70,000—mostly from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—endured brutal and at times even deadly conditions as they made their way to the United States. While most of these children were between the ages of 13 and 17, the fastest growing group was 6 to 12 years old. Of the many factors that influenced their individual decisions, four stand out. Read more »

Glimpses of Optimism in Guatemala

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Guatemala, Optimism, Asociacion Puente, Wakami, MILKnCOOKIES, Sheva.com, CICIG (Courtesy Shannon O'Neil)

The news and statistics from Guatemala are anything but reassuring. More than half the nation’s sixteen million citizens live in poverty. Worse, almost one in two children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which affects not just their immediate well-being but also limits their physical and intellectual potential for the rest of their lives. 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 »