Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Infrastructure on Rousseff’s Agenda

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, June 25, 2015
Brazil, Infrastructure, Dilma Rousseff, Programa de Investimentos em Logística (PIL), 2016 Olympics, BNDES An aerial view of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games athletes village, which is under construction in Rio de Janeiro February 26, 2015. Rio de Janeiro must keep up the pace of delivery if it is to complete venues before scheduled Olympic test events as it enters "the most intense period of preparations," the IOC said on Wednesday (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters).

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

Even as Brazil pushes forward austerity measures and entitlement reductions, the administration of President Dilma Rousseff is hoping to increase infrastructure investment. The recently announced Programa de Investimentos em Logística (PIL) would launch nearly R$200 billion (USD$64 billion) in concessions for rail (R$86.4 billion), roads (R$66.1 billion), ports (R$37.4 billion), and airports (R$8.5 billion). Roughly a third would be completed by 2018, when Rousseff will leave office. Read more »

The Cuban Renaissance: The Good, the Bad, and the Necessary

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, June 22, 2015
Raul Castro, Cuba, reform, U.S.-Cuba policy, paladar, Havana, people to people exchange (Courtesy Valerie Wirtschafter)

This is a guest post by Valerie Wirtschafter, a research associate with the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since December 17, 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations have become a constant fixture in the media. Yet this diplomatic thaw represents a culmination of reforms on the island, which accelerated when Raul Castro officially took office in 2008. Opening up to the world is not without trade-offs, and reform has already brought a combination of good, bad, and necessary change to the island and its people. Read more »

IMF High-Level Conference on Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Latin America, International Monetary Fund, economic growth (Courtesy International Monetary Fund)

Two weeks ago, I joined Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, Santiago Levy, vice president for sectors and knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank, Andrés Velasco, professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and Jose Viñals, financial counselor and director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on an engaging panel at the IMF’s High-Level Conference on Latin America. Read more »

Economic Clusters, Productivity, and Growth in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Alfred Marshall, Michael Porter, Queretaro aerospace, Chile salmon, Start-Up Chile, Clusters Workers places salmon carcasses into a box to be sent to the world market at the Acuinova Chile salmonera company located some 1,625 km south of Santiago March 5, 2009 (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters).

This post was co-authored by Gilberto Garcia, research associate for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

How can countries boost productivity and economic competitiveness? Many economists and business leaders turn to economic clusters as an answer. Read more »

Mexico’s Midterm Elections

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, June 8, 2015
Mexico, midterm elections, Enrique Peña Nieto, Jaime Rodriguez, El Bronco Jaime Rodriguez, independent candidate for governor of Nuevo Leon state, casts his ballot, during midterm elections in the town of Garcia, state of Nuevo Leon, June 7, 2015. Rodriguez, alias "El Bronco," would cause one of the biggest upsets in Mexican political history if his anti-establishment campaign claims the wealthy northern state of Nuevo Leon in midterm elections on Sunday (Daniel Becerril/Reuters).

Yesterday, Mexicans headed to the polls to vote for 500 federal deputies, 17 state legislatures, 9 governors, and more than 300 mayors. Corruption and security dominated many local discussions. And both new and old tactics emerged to influence votes. On the positive side, IMCO, a Mexican think tank led a 3 for 3 campaign, asking candidates to disclose their assets, potential conflicts of interests, and proof of paid taxes. While fewer than 400 of thousands of candidates participated, the effort and demand are a start toward greater transparency and accountability. Read more »

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, June 4, 2015
Foreign Direct Investment, Latin America A Venezuelan worker assembles a motorcycle made of Chinese parts at the Empire Keeway factory in Charallave, outside Caracas December 14, 2011. Every time that Beijing turns the gear of their loans to Caracas, thousands of barrels of oil are shipped to Asia, get tons of goods to South America and create dozens of companies as part of an oiled mechanism that gives millions of dollars to the Government of Hugo Chavez and great benefits to the Eastern giant (Jorge Silva/Reuters).

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America fell in 2014, down 16 percent to $159 billion according to the latest ECLAC report. This outpaced global declines closer to 7 percent, and fell far behind other emerging markets, which saw investments rise 5 percent on average, and 15 percent in Asia. Read more »

China’s RMB Swap Lines with Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 28, 2015
China, Argentina, swap lines Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands and face the media after signing documents during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing February 4, 2015 (Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters).

My colleagues Benn Steil and Dinah Walker recently published a great interactive on the spread of central bank currency swaps since the financial crisis. They find the United States provided developing nations with significant support through swap lines at the height of the financial crisis, but that China has been the most active extender of swap lines since 2009. China now has thirty-one swap agreements outstanding. Read more »

Latin America Goes Global Launch

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 21, 2015
Latin America Goes Global, Christopher Sabatini Heads of states pose for the family photo of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11, 2015 (Edgar Garrido/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the official launch of Latin America Goes Global. Led by Christopher Sabatini, adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and formerly editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, the new site already has many talented and thoughtful Latin American policy experts on board. Read more »

Saving Ciudad Juarez

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Ciudad Juarez (Courtesy International Crisis Group)

In 2010, the homicide rate in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez rose to over 250 per 100,000 inhabitants making it the most dangerous city in the world. Other crimes—extortions, kidnappings, and carjackings—also increased dramatically. By 2014, these rates had plummeted. The 424 reported murders still outpaced 2006 figures, but were just 14 percent of the 3,084 murders four years earlier. Read more »

Mexico’s Fight Against Corruption

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Mexico, corruption, rule of law, National Anti-Corruption System, Miguel Angel Mancera Relatives of the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa teachers' training college hold pictures of the students during a demonstration to demand justice, in Mexico City November 5, 2014. The students went missing in the town of Iguala in the south-western state of Guerrero on September 26 after clashing with police and masked men, with dozens of police being arrested in connection with a case that has sent shockwaves across Mexico (Tomas Bravo/ Courtesy Reuters).

Corruption allegations and revelations cover Mexico’s front pages. Public officials’ penchant for expensive watches, use of government helicopters for personal errands, and a string of expensive houses facilitated by preferred private contractors have incensed not only Mexico’s chattering classes but also the broader public. 2014 opinion polls conducted by the Pew Research Center show corruption ranks second only to crime in citizen concerns. Read more »