Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

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

Migration, Aeromexico style

by Shannon K. O'Neil Monday, October 22, 2007

Flying yesterday from JFK to Mexico City on Aeromexico’s afternoon flight, I sat next to a Mexican man in his late twenties. We started talking when he asked me to translate a few words on the English language customs form that were handed out.

He was returning to Mexico “ to a small town in Morelos “ after almost two years in the New York area. The main reason was to see his family: his wife, children, parents, and other relatives. While he never had working papers, during his two years he held jobs in restaurants, hotels, and most recently in a supermarket. He came to the United States with four friends, easily crossing the border, ending up in Los Vegas, flying to Boston, and then making his way down to New York. Read more »

Uncertain Causes and Effects of Declining Remittances

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, August 9, 2007

A recent report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) concludes that Mexican migrants are sending back less money or remittances to their home country than in the past. A survey of 900 migrants showed that only 64% – compared to the previous 71% – sent money home in the first half of 2007. The fall was particularly acute in new migrant  states, or those without long histories of Latino communities. The reasons suggested by the survey are anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States and a general feeling of insecurity and discrimination on the part of migrants. This is leading these workers to save more, and to reduce flows home. The polling results also show that more Mexican migrants expect to leave the United States in the next five years than before, seeming to support these conclusions. Read more »

Visiting Brazil – the energy issue

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, June 28, 2007

Energy is not just an important domestic policy issue in Brazil, but has also been a key element of its foreign policy. While Brazil has an admirable mix of energy sources – including hydroelectric, natural gas, oil, and ethanol – it has struggled and continues to struggle with potential energy shortages. These limits led to energy rationing in 2001, hitting the Cardoso government hard in the polls and providing Lula with an effective campaign issue in the 2002 Presidential race. Read more »

Visiting Brazil

by Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I’ve been in Rio de Janeiro these last two days. The police presence in this city is impressive, as the city and state government prepare for the Pan American games in a couple of weeks. Police cars are spread throughout the city on all the major roadways and along the beaches. Nevertheless, just yesterday there was a gun fight between the police and the gangs, centered in the favelas located near the international airport. Let’s hope the city can pull off this international event without any real problems.

The Fundamental Flaws of Immigration Reform

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, June 1, 2007

With Congress on vacation, immigration reform is on hold. Coming back from their break next week, all sides will be ready to fight, armed with new arguments. In my op-ed in today’s Washington Post, I point out two issues so far ignored: bureaucratic capacity and demographic necessities. Let’s hope on their return Congress adds these fundamental underlying factors to the more expected debates about walls, new visas, and point systems.

Visiting Bolivia (part II)

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 17, 2007

Everyone in Bolivia is focusing on the shift toward “participatory democracy,” from the previous “representative democracy.” Some embrace this change enthusiastically, while others view it warily. What is clear is that the traditional political parties have disintegrated here, as they have in many other countries in the Andean region, including Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Read more »

Bolivia visit (part I)

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I am in Bolivia this week. In my meetings so far in La Paz, one common theme is the general support for Evo Morales. While there is significant frustration with the government, interviews with representatives from indigenous groups, from the middle class, from academic institutions and foundations, and with foreign diplomats (not to mention taxi drivers), show a general support for Morales and for his position as President. Almost all see him as genuine, as representative, and as capable of negotiating with the various interests within Bolivia. Read more »

The Return of Inflation

by Shannon K. O'Neil Sunday, May 6, 2007

The one area of real triumph for market-oriented reforms in Latin America was inflation. Unlike the uneven record on poverty, inequality, and economic volatility, structural adjustment and austerity programs of the early 1990s ended high and hyper inflation. These programs brought the Latin American average from 235% per year in the early 1990s to less than 8% by the turn of the century. Low and steady inflation has been a crucial element for attracting both foreign and domestic investment, increasing economic production, and encouraging the economic growth of the last several years. Read more »

Pardon the appearance…

by Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, May 3, 2007

A quick note to readers: this blog will be undergoing some design upgrades in the coming days. If something looks different or temporarily broken, that’s why. Posts and comments will continue to display and work while we do this even if the layout looks different. Thanks for your interest and comments in the meantime.

Mexico's New Credit markets

by Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Yesterday Mexico’s microfinance group Compartamos, backed by Accion International and the IFC, went public on the Mexico stock exchange. Where once only the largest companies and wealthiest elites had access, credit markets are now increasingly receptive to middle and even lower class Mexicans. The fantastic growth of mortgage-backed security industry in Mexico since 2000 has made house and even car financing increasingly available to the middle class. Government policy has pushed these changes, but it has also come from the market itself  “ specifically the quest of Mexico’s internationally-owned banks to develop new customers and new profits. Read more »