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 "Venezuela"

The Hidden Refugee Crisis in the Western Hemisphere

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Haitians migrants wait to make their way to the U.S. and seek asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, July 15, 2016 (Reuters/Jorge Duenes). Haitians migrants wait to make their way to the U.S. and seek asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, July 15, 2016 (Reuters/Jorge Duenes).

While much attention is rightly focused on Syria and the Middle East, there are a growing number of refugees in the Western Hemisphere.

The largest group comes from Central America’s Northern Triangle—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. For each of the past three years between 300,000 and 450,000 Central Americans have fled north. Of these, between 45,000 and 75,000 are unaccompanied children; another 120,000 to 180,000 families (usually a mother with children); and between 130,000 to 200,000 single adults. These numbers peaked in May and June 2014 when more than 8,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border each month. 2016 numbers are again rising, with August inflows higher than ever before. Read more »

Bringing International Pressure To Bear on Nicolás Maduro

by Matthew Taylor
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (2nd L) and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (2nd R) speak next to Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Ernesto Samper (L) and former president of Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez, during their meeting at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela July 21, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins). Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (2nd L) and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (2nd R) speak next to Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Ernesto Samper (L) and former president of Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez, during their meeting at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela July 21, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins).

[This post was co-authored with John Polga-Hecimovich*. It is the third of a series that begins with this post.]

The collapse in Venezuela has many potential costs: democratic regression in Latin America; destabilization of neighboring countries, including, potentially, the fragile peace process in Colombia; the possibility of a significant migrant crisis; rising violence, corruption, and criminality; and threats to hemispheric energy security. A mix of frustration with President Nicolás Maduro’s recent moves and apprehension about the potential outcomes of the crisis has led to a frantic search for alternatives, none of which seems particularly likely to be effective on its own. The paucity of alternatives suggests that the best the international community may be able to hope for is to isolate the regime, demonstrate to moderates within the regime that there are costs to sticking with Maduro, and make efforts to ameliorate the worst humanitarian consequences of the crisis. Read more »

Three Factors Driving Venezuela’s Impasse

by Matthew Taylor
Demonstrators clash with members of Venezuelan National Guard during a rally demanding a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela October 26, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez). Demonstrators clash with members of Venezuelan National Guard during a rally demanding a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela October 26, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez).

[This post was co-authored with John Polga-Hecimovich*]

The increasingly dangerous crisis in Venezuela (described in the first post of this series), has been complicated by the political economy of the Chavista regime. Three aspects of the regime as it has evolved under the Nicolás Maduro government are particularly important to understanding where things stand: the policy centrality of the country’s impending debt default; the absence of an adequate exit strategy for many members of the regime; and the central role of the military as a likely guarantor of any solution to the crisis. Read more »

How Venezuela Got Into This Mess

by Matthew Taylor
People line up to try to buy toilet paper and diapers outside a pharmacy in Caracas May 16, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins). People line up to try to buy toilet paper and diapers outside a pharmacy in Caracas May 16, 2016 (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins).

[This post was co-authored with John Polga-Hecimovich*]

By the end of 2017, the Venezuelan economy will likely be less than three-quarters of its 2013 size. Inflation is set to increase from 700 percent in 2016 to a hyperinflationary 1,500 percent next year. Despite the government’s best efforts to continue payments, a crippling debt default seems increasingly inevitable. The human costs of the crisis are readily apparent, with food and medicine shortages, rising infant mortality, and increasing violence. Fully three-quarters of Venezuelans polled claim to want President Nicolás Maduro out. But last week, a series of judicial decisions appear to have quashed one of the most promising routes out of the political crisis, the presidential recall referendum. This string of suspect decisions confirms the Maduro administration’s descent into blatant authoritarianism and cuts off one of the last avenues for the peaceful restoration of a democratic system. Incongruously, all of this is in a country with the richest reserves of oil in the world, where the government has long proclaimed a commitment to social progress, inequality reductions, and popular legitimation. 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.

Venezuela’s Woes Reach Mercosur

by Matthew Taylor
Mercosur, trade, Pacific Alliance, Venezuela, European Union, democratic clause, Nicolas Maduro, Jose Serra, Delcy Rodriguez Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro stands in front of an image depicting the country's late President Hugo Chavez during a meeting with members of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas, in this handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace on January 29, 2016 (Reuters/Miraflores Palace).

Mercosur is under considerable internal strain. As at other times in the trade bloc’s history, shifting political winds and changing trade priorities have placed the member countries at loggerheads. The five-member organization is in the midst of what is perhaps the most severe of its periodic identity crises, exacerbated by the Left’s waning power in the region, the rise of the Pacific Alliance, and renewed member interest in external trade agreements. 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 »

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 »

South America’s Shifting Diplomatic Landscape

by Matthew Taylor
rapprochement, Cuba, U.S.-Brazil relations, Dilma Rousseff, Colombia peace talks, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, commodities boom, Mauricio Macri, Mercosur, Mauro Vieira, Susana Malcorra, pink tide countries, Democratic Unity Roundtable, Organization of American States, National Assembly, Nicolas Maduro, Unasur, BNDES, Banco do Brasil, Brazil-China Fund, Trans-Pacific Partnership, BRICS, Chinese meltdown Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra (L) and Brazil's Foreign Minister Mauro Viera speak before the Summit of Heads of State of MERCOSUR and Associated States and 49th Meeting of the Common Market Council in Luque, Paraguay, December 20, 2015 (Jorge Adorno/Reuters).

The past year has altered Latin America’s diplomatic panorama. Among the most significant changes were a U.S. policy turnaround that included U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, a reset in U.S.-Brazil relations cemented during President Dilma Rousseff’s June state visit to Washington, DC, and greater U.S. participation in the Colombian peace talks. In addition to these carefully strategized advances, a variety of far more contingent factors is converging in ways that are likely to shake up established regional alignments within South America. As the region prepares for the fourth Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit at the end of January, the rightward shift of domestic politics in the region, the woeful state of Brazil’s Rousseff government, and the Pacific turn in trade negotiations are combining in ways that may create a new set of opportunities for regional relations, and will certainly jumble the status quo. Read more »