Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

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 »

CFR Media Call: Summit of the Americas

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, April 10, 2015
Summit of the Americas, Panama, Panama City, Cuba Cuba's President Raul Castro listens during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in San Antonio de Belen in the province of Heredia January 28, 2015, in this handout courtesy of the Costa Rica Presidency (Costa Rica Presidency/Courtesy Reuters).

The seventh Summit of the Americas begins today in Panama City, Panama. Taking place every three years, it brings together leaders throughout the Western Hemisphere. This summit’s central theme is “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas,” addressing issues including education, health, energy, the environment, migration, security, citizen participation, and democratic governance. This is also the first summit Cuba attends. Yesterday, I participated in a CFR media call presided by Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs, offering a preview of the summit. You can listen to the call here.

Advanced Industries and North America

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, April 6, 2015
advanced industries, innovation, R&D, stem, economic competitiveness A view of employees working at the General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri February 7, 2012. When the U.S. automaker wanted to assign the launch of the next version of their full-sized pickup trucks and SUVs, they turned to one of the toughest executives in its ranks. The 5-foot-2 Diana Tremblay, GM's global manufacturing chief, is one of the highest ranking women in the automotive industry and has upended expectations her entire 35-year career, from directing workers in GM's foundries to staring down union labor negotiator (Sarah Conard/Courtesy Reuters).

The U.S. economic recovery and current strength reflect in large part advanced industries. As other sectors faltered, both employment and output in these businesses grew. In 2013, they employed 12.3 million workers (9 percent of the U.S. workforce), who made on average $90,000 (compared to the U.S. mean of $51,500). These industries generated $2.7 trillion in output (17 percent of U.S. GDP), and indirectly supported an additional 14.3 million jobs. Read more »

Latin America’s Middle-Income Trap

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, March 19, 2015
Latin America, Middle-income trap A student writes down in her note book on the first day of school in Managua February 11, 2013. Around 1.6 million students are expected to start their new academic year, according to the Ministry of Education of Nicaragua (Oswaldo Rivas/Courtesy Reuters).

In 2014, GDP growth in the region slowed to less than 1 percent. Expectations for 2015 are just slightly better, with forecasters predicting growth of nearer to 2 percent. The downturn reflects external factors, including the European Union’s continuing problems, a slower China, and falling commodity prices. But it also results from domestic barriers that hold these nations back. Read more »

The Political Fallout of the Petrobras Scandal

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, March 13, 2015
A member of Brazil's Movimento dos Sem-Teto (Roofless Movement) holds up a sign in a protest in front of the Petrobras headquarters in Sao Paulo March 11, 2015. The sign reads "No more Lies" (Nacho Doce/Courtesy Reuters). A member of Brazil's Movimento dos Sem-Teto (Roofless Movement) holds up a sign in a protest in front of the Petrobras headquarters in Sao Paulo March 11, 2015. The sign reads "No more Lies" (Nacho Doce/Courtesy Reuters).

The Petrobras corruption investigation, known locally as Operation Lava Jato (Carwash), entered a new phase last week, when Rodrigo Janot, Brazil’s general prosecutor, implicated 53 politicians from six different political parties. All but two come from President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) congressional coalition. Read more »