Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

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 »

Visiting the Panama Canal

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Panama Canal Panama Canal

Last week I was in Panama, and had the good fortune of visiting the Canal. In its Centennial year, it is a truly impressive feat of engineering, some forty-eight miles long, rising and falling some eighty-five vertical feet (roughly eight stories) overall through three lock systems and six different chambers. Its storied construction is captured eloquently in David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas—a great read for those interested in this piece of history. Read more »

North America’s Economic Integration

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, January 7, 2014
General Motors auto workers load the new Chevrolet Camaro for delivery, at the company's Oshawa Ontario facility, April 8, 2009 (Fred Thornhill/Courtesy Reuters). General Motors auto workers load the new Chevrolet Camaro for delivery, at the company's Oshawa Ontario facility, April 8, 2009 (Fred Thornhill/Courtesy Reuters).

Alan Berube and Joseph Parilla at the Brookings Institution recently published a report on the impressive amount of North American regional trade (with a great interactive that traces exports and imports across the continent). U.S. cities send and receive over $500 billion in goods from Mexican and Canadian cities—out of a total $1.1 trillion in intra-regional trade in 2012. The vast majority (some 69 percent) of this trade is in advanced industries (aerospace, automotive, electronics, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and precision instruments), an economic bright spot in the recovering U.S. economy. Here is a quick look at just how vital the United States’ regional trading ties are for its economic strength and competitiveness. Read more »

U.S. Passes the Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement with Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, December 20, 2013
The "Lolair" drilling platform from state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) is seen off the port of Veracruz, Mexico June 7, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). The "Lolair" drilling platform from state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) is seen off the port of Veracruz, Mexico June 7, 2012 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Tacked onto the bipartisan budget, the U.S. Congress passed the long-awaited Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement with Mexico. Signed in 2012 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, it lays the groundwork for U.S. and Mexican cooperation across some 1.5 million acres of shared oil and natural gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico. The agreement creates guidelines for determining the scope of the deep-water fields and how companies acting on behalf of each country can work together to access these reserves, and creates mechanisms for dispute resolution and for safety and environmental protection. Read more »

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 »