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Shannon K. O'Neil

Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program

Expertise

Latin America, Mexico, Brazil; policy reform; security; trade; energy; immigration.

Bio

Shannon K. O'Neil is the Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher. Her expertise includes U.S.-Latin American relations, trade, energy, and immigration. She is the author of Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead (Oxford University Press, 2013), which analyzes the political, economic, and social transformations Mexico has undergone over the last three decades and why these changes matter for the United States. She also directed CFR's Independent Task Force on North America: Time for a New Focus, as well as the Independent Task Force on U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality.

O'Neil has testified before Congress on U.S. policy toward Mexico and she is a frequent commentator on major television and radio programs. She has also spoken at numerous academic, business, and policy conferences. Her work has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Latinoamerica, Americas Quarterly, Política Exterior, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, among others. Her blog, Latin America’s Moment, analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

She has lived and worked in Mexico and Argentina, and travels extensively in Latin America. She was a Fulbright scholar; a Justice, Welfare, and Economics fellow at Harvard University; and has taught Latin American politics at Columbia University. Before turning to policy, O'Neil worked in the private sector as an equity analyst at Indosuez Capital and Credit Lyonnais Securities. She holds a BA from Yale University, an MA in international relations from Yale University, and a PhD in government from Harvard University.O'Neil has testified before Congress on U.S. policy toward Mexico and she is a frequent commentator on major television and radio programs. She has also spoken at numerous academic, business, and policy conferences. Her work has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Latinoamerica, Americas Quarterly, Política Exterior, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, among others. Her blog, Latin America’s Moment, analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

She has lived and worked in Mexico and Argentina, and travels extensively in Latin America. She was a Fulbright scholar; a Justice, Welfare, and Economics fellow at Harvard University; and has taught Latin American politics at Columbia University. Before turning to policy, O'Neil worked in the private sector as an equity analyst at Indosuez Capital and Credit Lyonnais Securities. She holds a BA from Yale University, an MA in international relations from Yale University, and a PhD in government from Harvard University.

Mexico's Rise

Mexico has changed remarkably over the last three decades, moving from a closed to an open economy, an authoritarian to a democratic political system, and developing a substantial, if at times fragile, middle class. In the last two years it has passed an ambitious series of reforms ranging from education to antitrust, from financial to energy which together have the potential to further transform the nation. Still, the country continues to struggle with serious problems, including violence and insecurity, uneven human capital and education, and weak infrastructure. How Mexico implements these reforms and confronts these challenges will prove vital to the United States given the deep economic, social, and community ties between the two countries. Building upon my research for my book, Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead, as well as the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report, North America: Time for a New Focus, I delve into the myriad of issues facing Mexico and explore what lies ahead for the country and its relations with the United States. In addition to writing op-eds, short articles, and blog posts for Latin America's Moment, I also convene the U.S.-Mexico Initiative Roundtable Series to discuss these issues.

The Western Hemisphere and the Global World

Countries throughout North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean are experimenting with how best to integrate into a globalizing world. In this context deep divides have emerged, with some nations closing off their economies while others embrace trade. The effects of these choices for the economy and society—good and bad—increasingly reverberate in the mostly democratic political realms, affecting the aggregate nearly one billion citizens in the hemisphere. Through roundtables, blog posts, op-eds and short articles, I explore the many aspects of these changing policies and outcomes on issues including poverty and inequality, social mobility, structures on the economy, rule of law, democracy, and standards of living. This project will culminate in a book on the changing responses and effects of globalization in the United States and the hemisphere more broadly.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Foreign Affairs Article

Mexico Makes It

Author: Shannon K. O'Neil

Even as Mexico continues to struggle with grave security threats, its steady rise is transforming the country's economy, society, and political system. Shannon K. O'Neil argues that given Mexico's bright future and the interests it shares with the United States in energy, manufacturing, and security, Washington should start seeing its southern neighbor as a partner instead of a problem.

See more in Mexico; Economic Development; Latin America and the Caribbean

Article

Blueprint for a Sustainable Energy Partnership of the Americas

Authors: Annette Hester, Jennifer Jeffs, Shannon K. O'Neil, Denise Gregory, Adriana de Queiroz, Anthony T. Bryan, and Timothy M. Shaw
The Centre for International Governance Innovation

This report from the Center for International Governance (CIGI) identifies opportunities to lay the groundwork for the development of concrete initiatives to address the
strategic needs of the Western Hemisphere for a sustainable energy future.

See more in Latin America and the Caribbean; Energy Policy; Environmental Policy

Ask CFR Experts

After immigration reform, how would the large and newly legal Hispanic population influence U.S. politics?

Asked by Isolda Navarro

Immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship would have sweeping effects on the lives of the estimated eight million undocumented Hispanics living within the United States. But it would not have an acute, immediate effect on U.S. politics.

Read full answer

See more in United States; Immigration; Latin America and the Caribbean

Recent Activity from Latin America's Moment

CFR Events

Roundtable Meeting ⁄ New York

Harnessing Technology to Advance Development and Improve Governance

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Academic Conference Call

NAFTA at Twenty

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Guest Event ⁄ Washington

Report Launch of the CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force on North America

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Guest Event ⁄ New York

North America: Time for a New Focus Report of the CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force on North America

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

Presidential Inbox Series: Latin America

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Roundtable Meeting

Realizing Democracy: Lessons from Mexico and Brazil

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Media Conference Call

Edward Alden and Shannon K. O'Neil on Immigration and Border Security

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Media Conference Call

Shannon K. O'Neil and Arturo Sarukhan on U.S.-Mexico Relations

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Media Conference Call

Jorge Castañeda and Shannon O'Neil on Nieto and U.S.-Mexico Relations

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Academic Conference Call

Energy Innovation in Brazil, China, and India: U.S. Policy Implications

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Conference Panel Session

Beyond NAFTA: Raising Cross-Border Competitiveness

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Conference Panel Session

Regional and Multilateral Responses

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Academic Conference Call

Latin America Policy in the Obama Administration

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Roundtable Meeting

Closing the Gaps in Latin America in a Time of World Crisis

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

Foreign Policy Inbox: U.S.-Mexico Relations

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Guest Event ⁄ Washington

U.S. - Latin America Relations: Report of an Independent Task Force

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Press/Panels

Video Interview

Shannon O'Neil on the Lid

Shannon O'Neil discusses President Obama's upcoming visit to Jamaica and Panama for the Summit of the Americas, and how they relate to U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

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Radio Interview

WAMU: Update On U.S. Relations With Mexico

Shannon O'Neil joins The Diane Rehm Show alongside fellow guests Arturo Valenzuela, Manuel Suárez-Mier, and Eric Olson, to discuss President Barack Obama's meeting with Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto and the latest in U.S. relations with Mexico.

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Video Interview

Charlie Rose: Mexico Today

Joining Charlie Rose on his show along with fellow guests Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, and Francisco Goldman, contributor to The New Yorker, Shannon O'Neil discussed Mexican President Peña Nieto’s meeting with President Obama last month and US-Mexico relations.

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Video Interview

CNN: Could default be good for Venezuela?

Shannon O'Neil joins CNN to discuss why a default in Venezuela might benefit it in the long-run and other options available to the government to deal with the country's worsening economic situation. 

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Video Interview

PBS: Mexico's Transformations

Shannon O'Neil speaks with PBS' Tavis Smiley about the complexities of the United States' relationship with Mexico beyond issues of security and immigration.

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Video Interview

FOX: KT McFarland

Shannon O'Neil discusses the potential obstacles ahead for the United States and Mexico and the forces that bind them.

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Radio Interview

WNYC: President Obama in Mexico

Shannon O'Neil talks about what to expect from President Barack Obam's trip to Mexico City and the relationship between President Obama and President Peña Nieto.

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Radio Interview

KQED: Previewing President Obama's Visit to Mexico

Shannon O'Neil joins David R. Ayon, boardmember of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation (USMF); Marcela Davison-Aviles, president of the Mexican Heritage Corporation; and Maria Antonieta Mejia, managing editor of El Mensajero to speak about the implications of President Barack Obama's visit with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City, and what themes will likely be discussed between the two leaders.

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Video Interview

MSNBC: U.S. Immigration Reform

MSNBC's Mara Schiavocampo speaks with Shannon O'Neil about the issue of border security in the ongoing debate for immigration reform, as well as the overall importance of the relationship with Mexico for the United States.

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Radio Interview

The Monocle Daily

After the release of her most recent book Two Nations Indivisible, Shannon O'Neil tells the story of the making of modern Mexico and what it means for the United States.

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Radio Interview

KPCC: Plagued by crime, Mexico creates new police force

In the wake of President Enrique Peña Nieto's announcement to create a new police force in order to effectively combat drug-related violence, Shannon O'Neil discusses the complexities of security issues in Mexico.

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Radio Interview

Bloomberg: O'Neil Says Middle Class Is Emerging in Mexico

In the discussion of her most recent book, Two Nations Indivisible, Shannon O'Neil highlights major changes that have occurred in Mexico over the last several decades, and speaks about the emergence of a middle class in Mexico.

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Radio Interview

WYNC: After Hugo Chavez

Together with Moisés Naím, Shannon O'Neil lends her insights about the future of Venezuela following the death of President Hugo Chavez.

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Video Interview

New York Times: Venezuela Without Chavez

Following the death of President Hugo Chavez, Shannon O'Neil elucidates what to expect in Venezuela after Chavez, and what his passing means for Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.

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Radio Interview

KCRW: Mexico Gets a New President

Following the election of Enrique Peña Nieto to the presidency in Mexico, Shannon O'Neil joins Tracy Wilkinson from the Los Angeles Times; Andres Rozental, a veteran diplomat in Mexico; and Tim Padgett from Time Magazine to analyze the potential impact of the president-elect's desire to shift focus from security to the economy.

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Panel

The Economist: Disrupting the Drug War

In a special forum co-sponsored by The Economist and the Council on Foreign Relations, Shannon O'Neil joins Alejandro Poiré, Secretary of the Interior for Mexico, to analyze the successes and challenges in the United States and Mexico's efforts to combat drug-related violence. 

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