Did Latin American privatisation polices fail because of flawed implementation of fundamentally sound policies or because privatisation policies were themselves seriously flawed? Using the Brazilian electric power reforms as a narrative tool, this paper examines the causal chain assumed by large-scale privatisation policies implemented as part of structural reform and adjustment programmes. The paper concludes that many privatisation policies and the economic stabilisation programmes within which they were embedded were not mutually reinforcing as policymakers had expected and that in their application, much of what privatisation theories claimed was lost in translation.