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 "Latin America"

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 »

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 »

IMF High-Level Conference on Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Latin America, International Monetary Fund, economic growth (Courtesy International Monetary Fund)

Two weeks ago, I joined Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, Santiago Levy, vice president for sectors and knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank, Andrés Velasco, professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and Jose Viñals, financial counselor and director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on an engaging panel at the IMF’s High-Level Conference on Latin America. 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 »

Latin America Goes Global Launch

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Latin America Goes Global, Christopher Sabatini Heads of states pose for the family photo of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11, 2015 (Edgar Garrido/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the official launch of Latin America Goes Global. Led by Christopher Sabatini, adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and formerly editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, the new site already has many talented and thoughtful Latin American policy experts on board. Read more »