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 "Panama"

Corruption, Politics, and Corporate Transparency in Latin America

by Matthew Taylor
anticorruption, campaign spending limits, corporate donations, corporate transparency, corruption, electoral finance, illegal enrichment, influence peddling, Lava Jato, multilatinas, multinationals, Odebrecht, politics, transparency Gustavo de Hoyos (C), president of the Mexican Employers' Confederation (COPARMEX), holds a placard during a protest to demand senators to approve the original proposal of the National Anticorruption System, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico, June 16, 2016. The placard reads: "Businessmen demand to stop corruption. #SNA" (Reuters/Ginnette Riquelme).

It is Latin America’s anticorruption season. Deep beneath the waves of revulsion about scandal, graft, and the general filthiness of local politics has been a profound concern with democracy. In particular, there is a growing awareness that the dangerous liaisons between corruption and electoral finance threaten the stability and legitimacy of elected governments in the region. While there is plenty of good news about the impressive corruption busters who are shaking up settled patterns of corruption and impunity in the region, many of the underlying links between corporate transparency, corruption, and campaign finance remain deeply troubling and potentially destabilizing. 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

CFR Media Call: Summit of the Americas

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Summit of the Americas, Panama, Panama City, Cuba Cuba's President Raul Castro listens during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in San Antonio de Belen in the province of Heredia January 28, 2015, in this handout courtesy of the Costa Rica Presidency (Costa Rica Presidency/Courtesy Reuters).

The seventh Summit of the Americas begins today in Panama City, Panama. Taking place every three years, it brings together leaders throughout the Western Hemisphere. This summit’s central theme is “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas,” addressing issues including education, health, energy, the environment, migration, security, citizen participation, and democratic governance. This is also the first summit Cuba attends. Yesterday, I participated in a CFR media call presided by Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, offering a preview of the summit. You can listen to the call here.

Panama Twenty-Five Years Later

by Shannon K. O'Neil
U.S. Invasion of Panama, Operation Just Cause U.S. troops take up positions outside the external relations ministry during the invasion of Panama on December 22, 1989 (Roberto Armocida/Courtesy Reuters).

December 20 marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Just Cause, better remembered as the U.S. invasion of Panama. Set off by the death of an off-duty Marine lieutenant by Panamanian security forces, the invasion represented the final step in a deteriorating relationship between the United States and Manuel Noriega—once a CIA informant and close ally, later a defiant dictator, undone by the winding down of the Cold War and his own brazen corruption. The lopsided confrontation ended by early January of 1990, when Noriega surrendered to U.S. authorities. He was then extradited, tried, convicted, and eventually sentenced to twenty years in U.S. federal prison for drug-trafficking, racketeering, and money-laundering. Read more »

Guest Post: Latin America, Energy Matrices, and the Future of Climate Change

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
Latin America, Energy Matrices, Climate Change A Petrobras Oil platform is seen at Guabanara bay in Rio de Janeiro September 24, 2010. Brazilian state oil company Petrobras raised $70 billion on Thursday in the world's biggest share offering, giving the company the financial muscle it needs to tap vast offshore oil reserves (Bruno Domingos/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by Matthew Michaelides, an intern here at the Council on Foreign Relations who works with me in the Latin America program.

This week world leaders meet in Lima, Peru to discuss the framework for a new UN climate change agreement. The big issues for discussion include financing clean energy projects and implementing cap-and-trade policies, building on the release of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a landmark climate change accord between the United States and China. Read more »

This Year’s Presidential Elections in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Voters wait in line to cast their vote in a presidential election runoff at a polling station outside in San Salvador March 9, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters). Voters wait in line to cast their vote in a presidential election runoff at a polling station outside in San Salvador March 9, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this week, Salvadorans headed to the polls to cast their ballots in a presidential runoff election, since on February 2 the candidates failed to reach the 50 percent threshold to avoid a second round. In the runoff’s lead up, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former guerrilla commander and the current vice president from the ruling party, looked poised for an easy win over his closest opponent Norman Quijano from the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). But with the final ballot count separating the candidates by some 0.2 percent of the votes and with allegations of fraud, it seems that the protests and debates surrounding this election are far from over. Read more »