More valuable as a memoir than a work of historical criticism, Lawrence Heilman's USAID in Bolivia sheds light on the ground-level workings of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Written by a former protagonist at USAID's Bolivian mission, the book offers a striking portrayal of US development thinking from this mission's early hopes in the 1940s to its Cold War failures, depicting a conveyor belt of US economic missions (led by Merwin Bohan, Hugh Keenlyside, George Jackson Eder, Willard Thorpe, and Jeffrey Sachs) that culminated in the agency's expulsion from Bolivia in 2013.

The book is an honest survey, though not always self-aware. For example, despite the subtitle's question as to whether USAID was Bolivia's partner or its patrón (boss or master), Heilman restricts his consideration of paternalism to the scale of the local mission, where the “Yankee management verve”...

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