Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

Anticorruption Efforts in Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Corruption, 43 students, IMCO, cost of doing business, Transparency International, Pact for Mexico, National Anticorruption System, Ley 3de3 (Courtesy ley3de3.mx).

Corruption dominates Mexico’s headlines: helicopter rides for officials’ family members, housing deals from favored government contractors, the still unexplained disappearance of 43 students, and a drug lord escaping a maximum-security prison, for the second time. In a recent survey, Mexicans listed corruption as the country’s top problem, ahead of security and the economy. Read more »

The Long Arm of U.S. Law and Latin America’s Corruption Malaise

by Matthew Taylor Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Latin America, corruption scandals, CICIG, Petrobras, U.S. foreign policy, Brazil's Clean Company Law, U.S. Deparment of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York A demonstrator holds inflatable dolls depicting Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff during a protest calling for the impeachment of Rousseff near the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, December 13, 2015 (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters).

Latin America’s corruption scandals of the past two years are moving slowly toward resolution. As they move forward, it is interesting to note that in a region that has been particularly protective of its sovereignty, foreign cooperation has played a significant role, whether it is via bilateral exchanges between prosecutors, mutual legal assistance treaties, or even United Nations support, as in the case of Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG). But these various forms of international cooperation may soon be joined by another international anti-corruption effort that is less well understood in Latin America: prosecution by U.S. attorneys. Read more »

Argentina’s Congress Returns

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, February 26, 2016
Argentina, bond payments, cerrojo law, coparticipaciones, currency controls, economic reforms, Enacom, energy subsidies, export taxes, federal transfers, INDEC, Judge Griesa, Kirchner, labor negotiations, pago soberano law, President Macri, Sergio Massa The Chamber of Deputies at the Argentine Congress is seen during a session in Buenos Aires, September 10, 2014 (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters).

During his first two months in office Argentine President Macri pushed through reforms to eliminate currency controls, cut export taxes, and remove energy subsidies. He also appointed two new judges to the Supreme Court and enhanced the court’s oversight of security surveillance, postponed promised changes to the legal system, shuffled responsibilities within the cabinet, modified a contentious media law, and annulled a Kirchner decree transferring federal funds to the provinces. All was done without Congress, which entered its three month summer recess on November 30 (before Macri’s inauguration). This will change March 1, as the legislature comes back into session. Read more »

Seven Uncertainties in Lenten Brazil

by Matthew Taylor Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Brazil, Zika virus, Lula da Silva, Olympics, PMDB, Lava Jato, Zelotes, Aedes Aegypti mosquito, Eduardo Cunha, Vice President Temer, PSDB, Workers Party, Antonio Monteiro Municipal workers wait before spraying insecticide at Sambodrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 26, 2016 (Pilar Olivares/Reuters).

Brazil is getting back to business after an exuberant carnival that brought irrepressible Brazilian humor to bear on serious national travails, including the Zika virus, Lula’s legal troubles, and the Olympics. Reality’s bite may be harsh after two months’ holiday respite from the high political drama of 2015. The coming year will be jam-packed, including the highly contested election later this week of new party leadership, a PMDB party leadership convention in March, the April deadline for ministers and governors to step down if they are running for office, the August Olympics, and the October municipal elections. Layered over these events will be the ongoing Lava Jato and Zelotes corruption investigations, campaigns against the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, and of course, the continued drama of Chamber of Deputies’ president Eduardo Cunha’s cage match with President Rousseff. Read more »

The Political Salience of Latin Americans’ Perceptions of Corruption

by Matthew Taylor Tuesday, February 9, 2016
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 Thursday, February 4, 2016
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 Tuesday, January 26, 2016
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 Friday, January 22, 2016
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 »

Five Upsides to Brazil’s Crisis

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, January 7, 2016
Brazil, recession, debt, deficit, corruption scandal, Brazil's Fall, Joaquim Levy, President Dilma Rousseff, Lava Jato, Zelotes, upsides, Nelson Barbosa Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff gestures during a meeting with social movements at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, December 17, 2015 (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters).

Brazil is in the midst of the longest recession of the democratic era that began in 1985. Between 2015 and 2016, the economy will shrink by 7 percent, more than in any other two-year period in the past century. The Economist’s dire cover story this week summarized the sad state of affairs: a downgrade in the country’s debt to junk status, a massive corruption scandal, rising public debt, two-digit inflation, and a rudderless political system, all contributing to “Brazil’s Fall.” Read more »

A Conversation With Mark Jones and Kellie Meiman Hock

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Argentina, President Mauricio Macri Argentina's President Mauricio Macri holds the symbolic leader's staff next to Vice-President Gabriela Michetti (L) and Senate provisional president Federico Pinedo (R) at Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 10, 2015 (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters).

This post features Mark P. Jones, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s political science fellow and Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin America Studies at Rice University, and Kellie Meiman Hock, managing partner and director of the Brazil and Southern Cone and trade practices at McLarty Associates. Latin America’s Moment recently sat down with Jones and Meiman Hock to discuss Argentina’s outlook. Read more »