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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Five Facts about Bad Hombres and Border Security

by Matthew Taylor
People talk to their relatives at a wall separating Mexico and the United States, as photographed from Playas Tijuana, in Tijuana, Mexico, April 10, 2016 (Jorge Duenes/Reuters).

The new administration has emphasized the need to curb security threats from Latin America: bad hombres, rapist Mexicans, and the wall are among the wrenching rhetorical symbols that President Trump has used to signal his goals. Five data points highlight the challenges the administration will face as it moves to secure the southern border. Read more »

The Future of Lava Jato and Brazil’s Reform Agenda

by Matthew Taylor
Brazil's President Michel Temer attends the inauguration ceremony of new Ministers, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, February 3, 2017 (Reuters/Adriano Machado). Brazil's President Michel Temer attends the inauguration ceremony of new Ministers, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, February 3, 2017 (Reuters/Adriano Machado).

The tragic January airplane crash that killed Justice Teori Zavascki, a member of Brazil’s highest court (the Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF), has given President Michel Temer an opportunity to seize yet another commanding position in Brasília: a potentially balance-shifting court seat. This appointment, and other machinations underway in Brasilia, could undermine the Lava Jato investigation, engender a popular backlash, and ultimately undercut the incipient reform efforts underway in Congress. Read more »

Mexico Plummets in Annual Corruption Rankings

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) gestures as Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong applauds during the XXXVIII Session of the National Council of Public Security at the National Palace in Mexico City, August 21, 2015. A Mexican government auditor on Friday exonerated Pena Nieto and his finance minister from any wrongdoing over purchases of homes from public contractors, but opposition lawmakers poured scorn over the bid to lay the scandal to rest (Reuters/Edgard Garrido). Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (R) gestures as Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong applauds during the XXXVIII Session of the National Council of Public Security at the National Palace in Mexico City, August 21, 2015. A Mexican government auditor on Friday exonerated Pena Nieto and his finance minister from any wrongdoing over purchases of homes from public contractors, but opposition lawmakers poured scorn over the bid to lay the scandal to rest (Reuters/Edgard Garrido).

Transparency International yesterday released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks 176 countries on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to one-hundred (very clean), based on the opinions of citizens and experts. Read more »

The Odebrecht Settlement and the Costs of Corruption

by Matthew Taylor
A sign of the Odebrecht SA construction conglomerate is pictured in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 26, 2016 (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes). A sign of the Odebrecht SA construction conglomerate is pictured in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 26, 2016 (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes).

It is hard to overstate the meaning of the settlement announced by U.S. authorities on December 21 with Odebrecht. Under this “largest-ever global foreign bribery resolution,”[1] the construction giant and its petrochemical subsidiary Braskem have agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to Brazil, U.S. authorities, and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General. Of the total criminal fines, 80 percent of Odebrecht’s payments and 70 percent of Braskem’s payments will go to Brazil, a victory for both Brazilian prosecutors and for the cash-strapped Brazilian government. Read more »

Latin America’s Wide-Open Electoral Season

by Matthew Taylor
July 28, 2016 (Reuters/Guadalupe Pardo). July 28, 2016 (Reuters/Guadalupe Pardo).

Half of the eighteen nations of Central and South America will hold presidential elections over the next two years.[1] The number of elections is not unprecedented, but the degree of uncertainty is, given the economic doldrums and political crises that have afflicted the region in recent years. As a consequence of the electoral outlook’s uncertainty, many of the coming year’s events in Latin America will need to be interpreted through the peculiar lens of candidates’ strategic calculations and parties’ maneuvering for advantage at the polls. Read more »

Exxon Mobil CEO on North American Energy Security

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, gives a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations (Don Pollard/CFR). Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, gives a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations (Don Pollard/CFR).

Earlier today, Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, gave a talk here at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he outlined the global oil and energy markets trajectory during the past five years. He focused his prepared remarks on the promise of North America, and its potential to finally bring about “energy security” in the United States. Tillerson emphasized not just the like-minded policies and geographic ties, but the vast resource base—today the combined U.S., Canadian, and Mexican oil output tops fifteen million barrels a day (more than Saudi Arabia or Russia), and could grow in the coming decade to some eighteen million. Read more »

Press Freedom and Democracy in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Pedestrians look at the front pages of newspapers on a street in Quito October 1, 2007. President Rafael Correa's party on Sunday battled for a majority of seats in the election of an assembly the leftist leader said will challenge discredited political elites by drafting a new constitution (Guillermo Granja/Courtesy Reuters).

Last Wednesday, Ecuador’s Supreme Court upheld sentences handed down in July 2011 for four members of the El Universo newspaper’s staff in the latest chapter of a lengthy and controversial trial. Three of the newspaper’s directors, Carlos, César, and Nícolas Perez, and an editorialist, Emilio Palacio, face three years in jail and $40 million in fines. All have fled the country or sought asylum abroad, and many expect that the fines (if collected) will bankrupt the 90-year-old periodical. Read more »

Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign

by Shannon K. O'Neil

I wrote a piece for CNN Global Public Square entitled “Illegal Immigration and the 2012 Campaign,” which highlights the role illegal immigration plays in the 2012 U.S. presidential race. In it I discuss how the rhetoric does not always match up to current immigration realities, and how the Hispanic vote will affect the upcoming election. Here is a brief excerpt: Read more »

The Politics of Latin American Energy

by Shannon K. O'Neil
An aerial view of the final stage of the construction of the new P-56 semi-submersible production platform for the oil company Petrobas at the Brasfels shipyard in Angra dos Reis (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

There has been a lot of talk about the shifting geopolitical weight from the east to the west due to the growth of energy resources in Latin America. Ever growing oil discoveries off the coast of Brazil, hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of shale gas in Argentina, and booming energy markets in Colombia and Peru have led many to bet on Latin America as the next energy frontier. Tempering the enthusiasm is the stagnation or even decline in output in other places — Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela — despite the buried potential riches. Read more »

Debating Amnesty and Immigration Policy

by Shannon K. O'Neil

Yesterday I had an exchange with my CFR colleague, Ed Husain (who has a fantastic blog, “The Arab Street,”), about my last post on Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” plan. I wanted to post it here, to add to the lively debate on the issue of amnesty, and immigration reform more generally, and he graciously agreed. Below is our conversation: Read more »