Will Brazil ever realize its great potential, or will it rack up another lost decade like the 1980s? Gordon is uniquely qualified to ask this question. As a U.S. ambassador to Brazil, he witnessed the 1964 military coup and the subsequent hardening of military rule that began one of Latin America's longest dictatorships. Aside from a self-interested attempt to defend his own role during the 1964 takeover, Gordon offers one of the best accounts of Brazil's trajectory since World War II. He reminds the reader that only two civilian presidents since 1950 have completed their terms in elected office: Juscelino Kubitschek (1956-61) and the current president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who will serve until 2002 (his first term ended in 1998). Yet these two periods did more than anything else to help tap Brazil's potential. Gordon pulls no punches when it comes to sharp analysis, and he is highly critical of Brazil's fragmented party system, its clientelistic congress, and the influence of state political machines. In fact, he warns, the gains made under Cardoso may not be preserved after 2002. He puts the odds at 50-50.