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"

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 »

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 »

Macri’s Surprising Honeymoon

by Matthew Taylor
Mauricio Macri, Argentina, Cambiemos, pragmatic Argentina's President Mauricio Macri (L) and Jujuy's Province governor Gerardo Morales (back C) dance as they take part in a carnival celebration in the Argentine northern town of Purmamarca, February 6, 2016 (Argentine Presidency/Reuters).

By all accounts, Mauricio Macri has had a remarkable honeymoon since he was inaugurated December 10, quickly moving to revise Argentina’s economic policies, restructure its relations with the world, and tackle a variety of rule of law challenges, ranging from corruption to the drug trade. President Obama’s trip to Argentina last week was in many ways the capstone to Macri’s dynamic first hundred days in office. The visit signaled a generational shift in U.S. policy toward Latin America, seeking to repair some of the worst damage done by U.S. support of the military dictatorship that took office when Obama was a teenager, but Obama and his entourage of more than four hundred business representatives were even more convincing in their strong praise for the Macri administration’s new openness to foreign investors. 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 »

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 ForeignPolicy.com, 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 »