Writing about politics and the political arena can be a touchy subject. Too many times the author ends up preaching to the choir or simply alienating their curious reading audience. It does not often happen that a book can sway members of an opposite political faction or belief. This, however, seems to be the unique case with Martha Honey’s “Hostile Acts: U.S. Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s”. Since its release, several of the main players berated in the book have changed their colors and revealed their true roles during this embarrassing chapter in the checkered history of the foreign policies of the United States of America.
But back to Martha’s book. Ms. Honey has combined extensive academic research with her own first-hand experiences as a journalist. Martha lived in Costa Rica from 1983 until 1991 with her husband Tony Avirgen, who is also a journalist as well as a cameraman. During those years, nearly a decade, Honey worked for the London Times, the New York Times, The Nation, NPR, ABC and BBC, impressive credentials, indeed. As a result of her endeavors, she was awarded the Pio Viquez National Award for journalism in 1989, presented to her by none other than Oscar Arias.
The U.S. involvement on the Contra debacle as they tried to stamp out the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua during the collective terms of presidency of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. is no clandestine mystery. In fact, quite a few books have been written and published recently on that very subject. What makes “Hostile Acts” unique is that it is told from the Costa Rican viewpoint by someone who was actually there to witness it and, at least theoretically, impart impartial reporting on the subject.
Here in Guanacaste, a folkloric glow hangs around Ollie’s Point because this is where Ollie North, working as a CIA directive, used to slip into the country too illegally supply and aid the Contras with American clout and cash. It all sounds somewhat mach-romantic until, upon reading Martha’s book, the reader discovers how many people were shot or blown-up due to these actions. It’s also interesting to note that John Hull, an ex-pat who owned property in that vicinity at the time and was receiving ten thousand dollars a month (of U.S. taxpayers’ money, without their consent) and that he was picking upon another cool ten grand every time a cocaine delivery used the airstrip on his property built by the U.S., which was often and always under the watchful eye and consent of the covert CIA operatives. It wasn’t until after the publication of “Hostile Acts”, however, that Hull was brought to court and prosecuted for his actions during the Contra operations.
Oscar Arias comes out smelling like a rose in the book, although he is at times depicted as being contradictory and wishy-washy, a dreamer and an idealist. From my perspective, he was a little over-glorified by the author, making him appear as responsible as the Sandinistas for thwarting a U.S. coup in Nicaragua. Still, Ms. Honey has done her homework, as the nearly one hundred-fifty page appendix of her book exhibits. Through all that data, though, Martha Honey makes “Hostile Acts” a very digestible book for the average reader.