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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Corruption, FATCA, and the Tightening Dragnet Around Brazilian Offshore Accounts

by Matthew Taylor
Brazilian Federal Revenue Secretariat, SRF, corruption, FATCA, brazilian offshore accounts, Swiss bank accounts, Car Wash, Panama Papers, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, Repatriation Law, illicit money Replicas of R$100,00 banknotes are hung on a clothesline during a protest of the national union of prosecutors against money laundering in Brazil, at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia March 18, 2015 (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino).

The Brazilian Federal Revenue Secretariat (SRF) has some good news to cheer: a big haul of fines and taxes from assets held offshore by Brazilians. The deadline for filing under Brazil’s equivalent of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program ends October 31, but news reports suggest that more than US$12.6 billion in foreign bank accounts held by more than 25,000 Brazilians have already been disclosed, leading to fines and taxes of nearly US$4 billion on money ferreted away in accounts that had previously been inaccessible to tax officials. More than a third of that money has been declared in the last week alone, suggesting that by the end of the month, the absolute volume of fines and taxes may be near the amounts collected under a sister program in the United States, whereby 45,000 taxpayers contributed US$6.5 billion to the U.S. Treasury. Read more »

Latin America’s Populist Hangover

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Alberto Fujimori, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Carlos Menem, corruption, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Ecuador, Evo Morales, Getulio Vargas, Guatemala, Honduras, Hugo Chavez, Jimmy Morales, Juan Orlando Hernandez, Juan Peron, Latin America, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Mexico, Nestor Kirchner, Nicolas Maduro, Otto Perez-Molina, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru, populism, Rafael Correa, Venezuela Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waves to supporters from a balcony after a ceremony at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires on May 4, 2015 (Reuters/Argentine Presidency).

In my piece published in the November/December 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs, I lay out the economic and political characteristics of populism, analyze why it is receding in Latin America today, and describe what a next wave might look like. I also argue that Latin America’s historical experience with populism provides some bracing warnings to other countries now flirting with such politics. You can read the first three paragraphs of the article below: Read more »

Interview With Jim Zirin: Current Events in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Jim Zirin, Conversations in the Digital Age, United States, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, U.S.-Mexico relations, peace deal, impeachment (Courtesy Jim Zirin)

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining Jim Zirin on “Conversations in the Digital Age” to discuss the U.S.-Mexico relationship, the presidential impeachment in Brazil, Colombia’s peace deal, Argentina’s return to global markets, and the turmoil in Venezuela. You can watch the interview here.

Mexico’s Corrupt Governors

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Mexico, corruption, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Chihuahua, Durango, PRI, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Aguascalientes, Javier Duarte, Roberto Borge, Cesar Duarte, Miguel Alonso, Gabino Cue, Francisco Olvera, Carlos Lozano, PAN, PGR, SAT, nepotism, money laundering, embezzlement, money laundering, illicit enrichment, fraud, anticorruption Javier Duarte, governor of the state of Veracruz, attends a news conference in Xalapa, Mexico, August 10, 2015 (Reuters/Stringer).

Last June, Mexico elected new governors in twelve of its thirty-one states. As millions of voters went to the urns, corruption was a top concern (along with insecurity). Eight states saw the incumbent party kicked out; in four—Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Chihuahua, and Durango—the PRI lost for the first time in the party’s history. Read more »

Winning the Peace: Paying for Colombia’s Peace Deal

by Matthew Taylor
Colombia, plebiscite, peace deal, Si, FARC, United States, drug trade, bacrim, peace, Plan Colombia, forgiveness, ELN, President Santos Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) fighters walk at the camp where they will ratify a peace deal with the Colombian government, near El Diamantee in Yari Plains, Colombia, September 17, 2016 (Reuters/John Vizcaino).

We are ten days away from Colombia’s momentous October 2 plebiscite on the peace deal. Current polling suggests voters will choose “,” bringing to an end a war that has killed nearly a quarter of a million Colombians and displaced as many as seven million more over the past half century. But although the outlook for approving the deal is good, the battle for the peace will be far longer and more uncertain, requiring a sustained effort for years to come. Five aspects of implementation are particularly thorny, with the fifth—funding the high cost of implementing the deal—undergirding all the rest: Read more »

How Americans See Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Donald Trump, Immigration, Justin Trudeau, manufacturing, Mexico, NAFTA, North America, Ottawa, supply chains, Vianovo (Courtesy Vianovo and GSD&M)

The three North American leaders meet tomorrow in Ottawa, the new Trudeau government reviving an annual summit. As a recent poll of U.S. perceptions of its neighbors by Vianovo and GSD&M confirms, they face public opinion headwinds. Canvassing 1,000 U.S. adults through YouGov, the survey reveals the deep suspicions Americans hold of their neighbors, especially Mexico. 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 »

Measuring Mexico’s Social Cohesion

by Shannon K. O'Neil
social cohesion, social fabric, violence, Mexico, Mexico Evalua, Neighborhood Social Cohesion Index, insecurity, Merida Initiative, United States A low-income neighborhood is seen in Mexico City, July 23, 2015 (Reuters/Edgard Garrido).

Social cohesion, or the strength of a country’s social fabric, is often raised in discussions of security. The World Bank describes it as “fundamental for societies to progress towards development goals,” and for making countries more resilient to bloodshed. In Mexico, policymakers argue social cohesion is both a casualty and a solution for reducing violence. 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 »