Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Great Political Comeback in Peru

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, June 10, 2016
Peru, Keiko Fujimori, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, PPK, Ollanta Humala, Veronika Mendoza Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, gives a speech to the press after Peru's electoral office ONPE said that he won more votes than Keiko Fujimori in the country's cliffhanger presidential election in his headquarters in Lima, Peru, June 9, 2016 (Reuters/Mariana Bazo).

This is a guest blog post by Ivan Rebolledo, managing partner of TerraNova Strategic Partners.

Sunday’s election pitted the two versions of the Peruvian right against each other: the populist, Keiko Fujimori of the Fuerza Popular party, and the liberal, Pedro Pablo Kuczynksi (PPK) of the Peruanos por el Kambio party, with the latter’s win confirmed Thursday afternoon. Read more »

Mexico’s Gubernatorial Elections

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, June 6, 2016
Mexico, PRI, PAN, MORENA, PRD, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, gubernatorial elections, governor, governorships, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Ricardo Anaya, corruption, National Anti-Corruption System, Ley 3de3, Nuevo Leon A woman casts her ballot during the election of sixty deputies, to form the Constituent Assembly that will create a constitution for Mexico City, in Mexico City, Mexico, June 5, 2016 (Reuters/Edgard Garrido). 

Mexico’s PRI lost big in yesterday’s gubernatorial elections. Just six months ago party optimists boasted they might sweep all twelve of the governorships; preliminary results show they may get just five. The rout happened in places with the strongest party machines—Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Quintana Roo—where for the first time in over eighty years citizens put a different party in the executive branch. This alternation in power is an important step for local democracy. Read more »

The Anticorruption Boom and U.S. Foreign Policy

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, June 2, 2016
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 Thursday, May 26, 2016
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 Tuesday, May 17, 2016
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 »

The Significance of Peru’s June 5 Election

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, May 12, 2016
Peru, June 5 election, neoliberal, Alberto Vergara, Ollanta Humala, Alberto Fujimori, Keiko Fujimori, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Veronica Mendoza, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Sendero Luminoso A combination file photo shows Peru's presidential candidates (L-R) Keiko Fujimori after voting and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski arriving to vote, during the presidential election in Lima, Peru, in these April 10, 2016 file photos (Reuters/Mariana Bazo (L) and Guadalupe Pardo).

While the world is distracted by Brazil’s impeachment drama, Venezuela’s impending meltdown, and Cuba’s promising détente with Washington, a potentially significant election campaign is underway in Peru that may have long-term implications for the success of the region’s “right turn.” Two candidates with robust neoliberal credentials are neck and neck in the second round contest that will take take place on June 5, and will determine who governs the country through 2021. Perhaps because of the similarities in the likely economic policies of the two contenders, not much foreign media attention has been focused on the election: regardless of who wins, Peru seems likely to continue with outward looking initiatives, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Pacific Alliance, while practicing market-friendly policies at home. But precisely because the economic policies of the two candidates are so similar—prominent Peruvian columnist and political scientist Alberto Vergara notes that whichever candidate governs Peru beginning in late July, their cabinet will be composed of technocrats who could serve their rival—observers have not focused on the underlying significance of this election to the democratic legitimacy of Latin America’s new rightward turn. Read more »

Legitimacy and the Battle to Remove Rousseff

by Matthew Taylor Wednesday, May 4, 2016
President Dilma Rousseff, Vice President Michel Temer, impeachment, legitimacy, Ricardo Janot, PSDB, PMDB, Lava Jato, Brasilia Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer (L) talks with President Dilma Rousseff during a ceremony to announce the adaptation criteria in the AM and FM broadcasting grants, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, November 24, 2015 (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters).

The past week has brought a number of puzzling new feints and jabs in Brasília’s bloody political cage match:

– Most dramatically, reputable news organizations are reporting that President Dilma Rousseff is contemplating resigning from office later this week, despite having spent much of the past year denying that she would ever countenance resignation; Read more »

CFR Conference Call: Brazil Update

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, April 22, 2016
Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, Impeachment Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a news conference for foreign journalists at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil April 19, 2016 (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters).

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk with Michael T. Derham, a partner with Novam Portam, about the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and Brazil’s possible paths forward. You can listen to our conversation here.

Brazil’s Impending Hangover

by Matthew Taylor Thursday, April 14, 2016
President Dilma Rousseff, Michel Temer, impeachment, Workers' Party, economic mismanagement, political turmoil, hangover, Renan Calheiros, Supreme Federal Tribunal, Oscar Vilhena Vieira, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, Eduardo Cunha, Lava Jato, Car Wash investigation, golpismo Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a signing ceremony of a deal between mining company Samarco and its owners, BHP Billiton and Vale SA, with the Brazilian government at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 2, 2016 (Adriano Machado/Reuters).

After months of suspense, President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment looks set to proceed in a floor vote in the Chamber of Deputies on Sunday, April 17. At present, impeachment seems more likely than not: Vice President Michel Temer and his allies have overcome many of the political hurdles to impeachment by skillfully creating a bandwagon effect among legislators, in part by arguing that there is little point in continued support for the outgoing Rousseff and that now is the time to make sweet deals with the incoming Temer administration. This week’s desertions mean that of the seven largest parties in Congress, only one (the PT) still supports the president, while five are in opposition (PMDB, PSDB, PP, PSB, and DEM) and one is still officially undecided (PR). Read more »

Five Things Washington Should Do to Help Latin America Curb Corruption

by Guest Blogger for Matthew Taylor Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Corruption, Latin America, Operation car Wash, U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, antimoney laundering, Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, International Center for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), U.S. real estate market Paraguayan prosecutors Hernan Galeano (C), Federico Espinoza (center, R) and Chief Prosecutor Roberto Zacarias hold a news conference in Asuncion, January 8, 2016. Paraguayan state prosecutors on Thursday raided the headquarters of South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL after a request for cooperation from U.S. justice officials probing corruption inside world soccer, the prosecution office said (Jorge Adorno/Reuters).

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Richard Messick, an anticorruption specialist. It is based on a talk he gave at a CFR roundtable on March 24 hosted by Matthew M. Taylor, adjunct senior fellow for Latin America Studies.

One of the most promising developments in U.S. foreign relations is the all-out war on corruption being waged across Latin America. From “Operation Car Wash” in Brazil to investigations of presidential wrongdoing in Bolivia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama, across the region independent, tenacious prosecutors and investigators are out to end the massive theft of state resources that for so long has hobbled political development and throttled economic growth. The United States should be cheering for these corruption warriors, for we have much to gain if they succeed. Less corruption translates into more stable, reliable political allies; it means faster, more equitable growth and that means shared prosperity and less northward migration. Finally, less corruption in government will offer U.S. firms new opportunities. Think what the end of corruption in Brazilian public works would mean for U.S. engineering and construction companies. Read more »