Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Viva las Reformas

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto waves the national flag after he shouted the "Cry of Independence" as Mexico marks the 203rd anniversary of the day rebel priest Manuel Hidalgo set it on the path to independence in Mexico City September 15, 2013 (Tomas Bravo/Courtesy Reuters). Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto waves the national flag after he shouted the "Cry of Independence" as Mexico marks the 203rd anniversary of the day rebel priest Manuel Hidalgo set it on the path to independence in Mexico City September 15, 2013 (Tomas Bravo/Courtesy Reuters).

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration finished off an ambitious first-year reform agenda this past week, pushing historic energy and political reforms through Mexico’s Congress. These reforms—and the earlier labor, education, fiscal, and telecommunication reforms—aim to boost economic growth (which slowed to 1 percent over the past year) and entice foreign investment in once closed-off sectors. Here is a piece that I wrote for the January/February 2014 edition of Foreign Affairs on why, especially given the recent changes, Mexico is a hot market that investors will want to watch. Read more »

Mexico’s Historic Energy Reform

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, December 12, 2013
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). 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).

Listening to the fireworks for the Virgen de Guadalupe last night from my hotel room in Mexico City, one could have mistaken them for the tumult occurring at the same time in the House of Representatives. Right before midnight, the representatives passed, by a two-thirds majority, the principles of energy reform (following the Senate’s approval earlier in the day). Read more »

Many Stories, One Juárez

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, November 25, 2013
People release white doves after a religious service celebrated in Ciudad Juárez, January 30, 2011 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). People release white doves after a religious service celebrated in Ciudad Juárez, January 30, 2011 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

I had the great honor of participating in a fundraiser in El Paso last week—organized by the Somos Fund—to support after school programs and scholarships for kids affected by violence in Ciudad Juárez. It has now been almost four years since the Villas de Salvárcar massacre, where gunmen burst into a birthday party and gunned down fifteen young people in what was a case of horrifying mistaken identity. Since then, the families have channeled their grief into improving Ciudad Juárez for the many youths still living there, and the funds raised at the event will go toward supporting their work. (You can also donate here by typing Somos Fund under the project name). Read more »

Mexico on the Brink

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Federal riot police stand guard outside the alternative senate building in Mexico City, October 23, 2008 (Daniel Aguilar / Courtesy Reuters). Federal riot police stand guard outside the alternative senate building in Mexico City, October 23, 2008 (Daniel Aguilar / Courtesy Reuters).

A few weeks ago, the Legatum Institute’s released its global Prosperity Index—which I wrote about here—that took both macro-economic indicators and social well-being into consideration. In the Index, Mexico’s rankings were solidly mixed—landing in the bottom quarter in security but jumping to the upper tier in measures of its economy. In a longer piece I wrote for Legatum, titled “Mexico on the Brink,” I take a more in-depth look at Mexico’s varied performance, outlining where the country is doing well and where it needs some improvement. It begins: Read more »

How Latin America Fares in the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Legatum Prosperity Index Legatum Prosperity Index

The Legatum Institute, a London-based policy organization, just published its annual Prosperity Index. Using eighty-nine indicators across eight indices—economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom, and social capital—it moves beyond more standard macroeconomic country rankings to take into account income and social well-being. Questions range from if citizens have “helped a stranger in the past month” to a nation’s “incidence of tuberculosis.” With the scores tallied up, here is a look at where Latin America’s prosperity by their measures stands. Read more »

Discussing Mexico at the Texas Book Festival

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, October 29, 2013
C-SPAN2 C-SPAN2

This past Sunday I was in Austin, Texas at the Texas Book Festival. I had the honor of moderating a panel about two great books on Mexico, Ricardo Ainslie’s The Fight to Save Juárez – Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War and Alfredo Corchado’s Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness. You can watch a video of our conversation here (starting at 5:15), courtesy of C-SPAN2.

Public Education in Brazil

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A Brazilian citizen, living in Mexico, holds a poster during a demonstration in Mexico City June 18, 2013, in solidarity with a protest movement against poor public services, police violence and government corruption in Brazil (Edgard Garrido/Courtesy Reuters). A Brazilian citizen, living in Mexico, holds a poster during a demonstration in Mexico City June 18, 2013, in solidarity with a protest movement against poor public services, police violence and government corruption in Brazil (Edgard Garrido/Courtesy Reuters).

When people talk about what holds Brazil back, education tops the list (along with infrastructure). The poor quality of Brazil’s public education system limits students’ capabilities and adaptability, creates mismatches between workers’ skills and companies’ needs, and stifles productivity and entrepreneurship. These limits affect the entire economy—hampering economic growth, competitiveness, research & development, and even oil production (as Petrobras has struggled to find skilled workers for its pre-salt finds). Read more »

North America’s Energy Boom

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The past week, I participated in an IMF panel discussion on the North American energy boom with fellow energy watchers Alejandro Werner, Director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department, Alejandro Diaz de León Carrillo, Mexico’s Deputy Undersecretary for Public Credit of the Ministry of Finance, John Murray, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, and Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS, and moderator Enrique Acevedo of Univision. There were many thoughtful takes on what is and is not happening, and how it may affect not just regional but also global markets. You can watch it here: Read more »

Brazil’s Pre-Salt Oil Six Years Later

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, October 10, 2013
An aerial view of the final stage of the construction of new P-56 semi-submersible production platform for the oil company Petrobas at the Brasfels shipyard in Angra dos Reis, about 115 miles (185 km) west of Rio de Janeiro February 24, 2011 (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters). An aerial view of the final stage of the construction of new P-56 semi-submersible production platform for the oil company Petrobas at the Brasfels shipyard in Angra dos Reis, about 115 miles (185 km) west of Rio de Janeiro February 24, 2011 (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

In 2007, Petrobras engineers struck black gold, discovering vast oil reserves in the deep-water off the Brazilian coast and permanently altering not only Brazil’s energy landscape but the country’s economic and political fortunes. Immediate surveys predicted that some 80 billion barrels were trapped in these pre-salt reserves (named after the rock layer they are located in), a number so high that then-President Lula declared the find as proof that “God is Brazilian.” Read more »

Dilma Rousseff’s Tenure Three Years On

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, October 3, 2013
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a press statement after a meeting at the 6th European Union (EU)-Brazil summit at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia January 24, 2013 (Ueslei Marcelino/Courtesy Reuters). Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a press statement after a meeting at the 6th European Union (EU)-Brazil summit at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia January 24, 2013 (Ueslei Marcelino/Courtesy Reuters).

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is gearing up for her reelection bid this week, attending political rallies and drumming up support by appearing with former President Lula. As she hits the campaign trail, over the next year she will be campaigning on—or alternatively explaining—her last three years in office. So what has Rousseff accomplished during her time at Brazil’s helm? The results are, in my view, mixed. Read more »