The Americas 57.2 (2000) 300-301
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This comprehensive, articulately written book narrates the historical relationship between the United States and Bolivia over the last two centuries. Kenneth D. Lehman takes the story of the nexus between the two nations back to its roots. By the early 1800s, Lehman notes, the United States and Bolivia were on totally different trajectories in their historical development. This proves to be a key point. For their part, norteamericanos (a label commonly used in Latin America to denote members of U.S. society) rapidly established successful economic, political, and social institutions. Bolivia, on the other hand, was mired in long-term economic, social, and political crises which produced a deeply rooted, self-critical pessimism. From these very divergent beginnings, Lehman deftly articulates how a patron/client nexus ensued between the nations. There are many elements to this dependency. A critically important aspect of such a relationship has been Bolivia's reliance on U.S. economic and military assistance.
Historically, the norteamericanos have wanted pro-United States stability in the Andean country. Although Bolivia has clearly been a subordinate in this "limited partnership," Lehman notes instances where Bolivia influenced the overall relationship between the two nations, such as in the late 1960s when anti-norteamericano sentiment propelled both the expulsion of the Peace Corps and the nationalization of Gulf Oil. As a consequence of their longstanding subservient association with the United States, Bolivians' views of the northern giant have been divided; some bolivianos have seen the successful norteamericanos as an example to be copied, while others have denounced them as imperialist aggressors.
Overall, Lehman does a thorough job examining the historical origins of and continuity within the multifaceted dependency relationship between the United States and Bolivia. However, he could have looked more closely at how Bolivian dependency has affected Bolivia's political institutions, especially the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR), which propelled Bolivia's 1952 revolution. The connection between the MNR's dependency on U.S. assistance in the 1950s (which flowed to the Andean nation in large amounts in that tremendously important decade) and its ultimate downfall at the hands of the military in 1964, deserved closer analysis. Did the MNR's dependence on its wealthy North American patron ultimately weaken it to the point that the military could easily take power? This question is very significant, since after the coup Bolivia entered nearly two decades of military rule, and its effects still reverberate through the Bolivian polity today.
A more minor criticism: Lehman states that by the early 1970s U.S. officials (despite the control that the dependency relationship gave them) thought Bolivia more of a threat to hemispheric security than Allende's Chile (p. 162). This assertion overstates the case. To make this point, Lehman needed a more detailed description of anti-norteamericano sentiment in late1960s and early1970s Bolivia. [End Page 300]
In sum, this excellent book is the first to present United StatesBolivian relations in their entirety. For that reason alone scholars of both interAmerican relations and South American history will benefit by reading it. Taken together, both its content and innovative methodology make this monograph a good choice for classroom use.
James F. Siekmeier
Angelo State University
San Angelo, Texas