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Hostile Acts: U.S. Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s.

There are two good books here. The most compelling is the story about the La Penca bombing, which fundamentally altered Honey's life. On May 30, 1984, a bomb went off at a press conference for the contra leader, Eden Pastora. Honey and here husband, Tony Avirgan, were free-lance journalists in Costa Rica covering the contra war, and Avirgan had gone to La Penca for the press conference. When the bomb went off, Avirgan was injured, as was Pastora.

For the next several years, Honey and Avirgan dedicated themselves to finding out who was responsible for the bombing, suspecting the CIA all along. In the process, they uncovered the vast machinations which were later to become known as the Iran-contra scandal. Along with the Christic Institute, they brought suit against many of the Iran-contra figures (Honey here tells of her frustration with lead attorney, Daniel Sheehan).

But ultimately, her relentless quest for the truth about La Penca came to a surprising conclusion when she discovered definitively that the bomber was a Sandinista agent. The twists and turns leading up to this discovery are fascinating, and Honey's honesty in following the trail wherever it leads is admirable. She does not simplify her story at the end, though, as many news reports have. There are just too many questions left, too many coverups and lies by the U.S. Government about La Penca, to rule out the possibility that the CIA may have been involved in some way.

The other book is less dramatic but valuable, nonetheless. It is a finely researched case study of how the U.S. Government sought to undermine Costa Rica's democratic institutions in the 1980s. First, the U.S. Agency for International Development subverted Costa Rica's economy by pressuring the government to privatize sectors of the economy, including banking, and to open up the economy to more foreign investment. Then AID chipped away at the nation's health-care system and redirected its agriculture from self-sufficiency and the production of staple goods to what Honey calls the "agriculture of desserts." Instead of producing rice, corn, sorghum, and beans, Costa Rica, as a condition of receiving AID grants, was required to produce luxury crops--"melons, strawberries, macadamia nuts, pineapples, flowers, and ferns"--for the U.S. market.

The U.S. Government subverted not only the economy of Costa Rica, but its tradition of neutrality and its commitment to a nonmilitary society, as well. The Reagan Administration turned Costa Rica into the "southern front" in the war against Nicaragua, with a devastating effect on Costa Rica.

While she has trouble stitching the two books together, Honey has added greatly to the literature of U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s.
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Author:Rothschild, Matthew
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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