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USAID in Bolivia: Partner or Patrón?

Lawrence C. Heilman
USAID in Bolivia: Partner or Patrón?
ISBN: 978-1-62637-436-2
ISBN: 978-1-62637-694-6
2017/346 pages/LC: 2016013611
A FirstForumPress Book
"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 ... that culminated in the agency's expulsion from Bolivia in 2013.... As a memoir and a valuable catalog of ground-level USAID operations, Heilman's book represents an excellent source for historians of Bolivia and of US development policy.” —Thomas C. Field Jr., Hispanic American Historical Review

"Not only offers a detailed reconstruction of how U.S. development assistance in Bolivia has emerged and evolved, [but] also presents a case study of a more general phenomenon: the history of U.S. development policy in the context of changing strategic priorities and an evolving global development discourse." —Jonas Wolff, Latin American Politics and Society

"A fascinating insider's account.... Heilman provides frank insights into the US government's attempt to create development through its aid program."—Erick Langer, Georgetown University   


After Bolivia had received more than $4.7 billion from the US government to support 70 years of development efforts, why would Evo Morales abruptly expel USAID from the country in May 2013? The answer, alleges Lawrence Heilman, is rooted in a complex slice of history beginning with US assistance to Bolivia during World War II.

Heilman explores that history from the perspectives of both the US and Bolivia, presenting a tapestry of mutual benefits and conflicting interests. He appraises the ideas and personalities that determined US foreign aid policies/programs across successive administrations ranging from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama; the political and economic context that shaped Bolivia's development aspirations; and the goals/strategies of the AID mission in Bolivia that guided its decisions about specific projects. The result is an in-depth picture of USAID in one country, but also important insights into US aid policy overall.


Lawrence C. Heilman is research associate in the Anthropology Department at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He served twenty years with USAID as a senior foreign service officer.


  • The Bolivian Context.
  • Forging a Development Relationship: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933-1945.
  • A Development Mission to Fight Communism: Harry S. Truman, 1945-1952.
  • Revolution Dictates the Development Path: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961.
  • The Alliance for Progress: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961-1969.
  • New Directions for Reaching the Rural Poor: Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, 1969-1977.
  • In Pursuit of Basic Needs and Human Rights: James E. Carter Jr., 1977-1981.
  • Out of Chaos a New Development Path Emerges: Ronald W. Reagan, 1981-1989.
  • The War on Drugs with a Development Agenda: George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993.
  • USAID's Development Surge: William J. Clinton, 1993-2001.
  • A Commitment to Empowering All Bolivians: George W. Bush, 2001-2009.
  • Ending USAID's Development Drama: Barack H. Obama, 2009-2013.
  • Past is Present.
  • Appendixes.