Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Immigration Reform Is Dead, Precisely When We Need It Most

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, June 13, 2014
Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who just disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a Greyhound bus station in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2014 (Samantha Sais/Courtesy Reuters). Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who just disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a Greyhound bus station in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2014 (Samantha Sais/Courtesy Reuters).

With Eric Cantor’s loss earlier this week, most believe immigration reform is dead. Yet with tens of thousands of Mexican and Central American children flooding across the U.S. southern border, a legislative overhaul is even more important. In this piece for Foreign Policy, I look at why these kids are coming and what we need to do about it. You can read the beginning of the piece below: Read more »

Mexico Energy Talks

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, June 2, 2014
Pemex Engineers Two engineers with Mexico's state owned oil company, PEMEX (Petroleos de Mexico), watch work on an oil platform in the Sen oil field, in the swampy south eastern state of Tabasco, September 20, 2000 (Andrew Winning/Courtesy Reuters).

I recently had the opportunity, along with Vianovo’s James Taylor,  to chat with Mexican Congressman Javier Treviño, one of the country’s energy reform leaders. We focused on what investors and analysts can expect from the secondary legislation currently being hammered out in Mexico’s Congress—touching on the development of Mexico’s new energy model, national content requirements, the role of state and local governments, and environmental and security considerations. Read more »

Mexico’s Oil and Taxes

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Pemex reform and Mexico's Taxes The logo of Mexican petroleum company Pemex is seen on a tank gas at gas station in Mexico City, November 23, 2012 (Edgard Garrido/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the last three decades, oil’s importance in the Mexican economy has diminished, with energy products shrinking from over three-quarters of all exports in 1982 to less than 15 percent in 2012. Still energy’s role in Mexico’s politics has not receded, in part due to the federal budget’s dependence on the sector—taxes and royalties comprise roughly a third of total inflows into government coffers. As the Congress negotiates the secondary legislation that will set the ground rules for opening up the energy sector in Mexico, the government will have to address this dependence as well, weaning itself from Pemex’s largesse. Read more »

Mexico as a Global Player

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Foreign Affairs Conference (Don Pollard). Foreign Affairs Conference (Don Pollard).

Last week, Foreign Affairs hosted a full day conference on Mexico, to talk about the country as a regional and global player. Panel topics included U.S.-Mexico cooperation, bilateral trade, regional immigration, and Mexico’s social inclusion and education system. You can find the full agenda here. Read more »

S&P’s Brazil Downgrade: Why it Matters

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, April 3, 2014
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during the signing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro's international airport concession in Rio de Janeiro, April 2, 2014 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters). Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during the signing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro's international airport concession in Rio de Janeiro, April 2, 2014 (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

In a widely expected move, the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) downgraded Brazil’s long term debt from a credit ranking of BBB to BBB- on March 24, bringing the country’s sovereign bonds a step closer to losing their “investment grade status” (defined as BBB- or above) and becoming “speculative” or “junk bonds.” The rating stems from a combination of indicators—including GDP growth, inflation, and external debt—that S&P uses to measure a country’s creditworthiness and its fiscal, regulatory, and political risks. Read more »

A Primer: Mexico’s Energy Reform

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, March 20, 2014
Employees walk on a bridge at the Mexico’s state-run oil monopoly Pemex platform “Ku Maloob Zaap” in the Northeast Marine Region of Pemex Exploration and Production in the Bay of Campeche April 19, 2013 (Victor Ruiz/Courtesy Reuters). Employees walk on a bridge at the Mexico’s state-run oil monopoly Pemex platform “Ku Maloob Zaap” in the Northeast Marine Region of Pemex Exploration and Production in the Bay of Campeche April 19, 2013 (Victor Ruiz/Courtesy Reuters).

This past December, Mexico passed a historic energy reform that has the potential to fundamentally transform the country’s oil, gas, and electricity sectors. In this brief that I co-authored with James Taylor, founding partner at Vianovo, we lay out the importance of the soon-to-be-announced secondary legislation, provide an outline of the newly formed regulatory regime, and explore the types of opportunities that the reform will create. Read more »

This Year’s Presidential Elections in Latin America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, March 13, 2014
Voters wait in line to cast their vote in a presidential election runoff at a polling station outside in San Salvador March 9, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters). Voters wait in line to cast their vote in a presidential election runoff at a polling station outside in San Salvador March 9, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this week, Salvadorans headed to the polls to cast their ballots in a presidential runoff election, since on February 2 the candidates failed to reach the 50 percent threshold to avoid a second round. In the runoff’s lead up, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former guerrilla commander and the current vice president from the ruling party, looked poised for an easy win over his closest opponent Norman Quijano from the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). But with the final ballot count separating the candidates by some 0.2 percent of the votes and with allegations of fraud, it seems that the protests and debates surrounding this election are far from over. Read more »

Two Decades of U.S.-Mexico Relations

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, February 28, 2014

I had the great privilege of joining Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society, and Nelson Cunningham, President of McLarty Associates, yesterday at NDN for a wide-ranging talk on U.S.-Mexico relations. In our hour-long chat, we cover the last two decades of regional integration under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and offer our thoughts on what the next two decades could and should look like. You can watch it here or below. Read more »

Good Neighbors

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, February 18, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a joint news conference with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, April 2, 2012 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a joint news conference with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon in the White House Rose Garden in Washington, April 2, 2012 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama will meet tomorrow with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper for the North American Leaders’ Summit. The three leaders will take a look back on the last twenty years of regional integration, but even more importantly, they will have an opportunity to set the course for the next two decades. In this piece for Foreign Policy, I explain why working trilaterally for a North American future is more important now than ever before for the United States. Read more »

Guest Post: U.S. Students are Heading to Latin America, Just Not to Mexico

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, February 10, 2014
A boy walks past a mural depicting a child shooting an RPG loaded with school supplies in Ciudad Juarez February 10, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). A boy walks past a mural depicting a child shooting an RPG loaded with school supplies in Ciudad Juarez February 10, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by Stephanie Leutert, a research associate here at the Council on Foreign Relations, who works with me in the Latin America Studies program.

Secretary John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden recently announced the new State Department directed 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund. It ambitiously aims to have 100,000 U.S. students in Latin America and 100,000 Latin American students in the United States by 2020. This initiative builds on the increasing interest in the region; during the 2011-2012 school year over 44,000 U.S. students headed south. Still these growing numbers hide the changing geographic interests, including the increasing popularity of Brazil and Costa Rica and the steep declines in semesters abroad in Mexico. Read more »