San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

A Field Day for Mercs

In March 1985, U.S. citrus farmer Bruce Jones was photographed for Life magazine in full olive drab mercenary regalia, carrying an M-16 training rifle with Nicaragua contra rebels somewhere in Costa Rica. Jones fled the country before he could be kicked out by the Monge administration, embarrassed by casual unmasking of Costa Rica’s neutrality policy Jones was only one U.S. citizen known to have helped the Contras from Costa Rica, the most famous being rancher John Hull, who reputedly regularly hosted meetings of Contras at his farm in Muelle de San Carlos.

In 1985, the Ministry of Interior arrested a group of Contras, including four foreign soldiers of fortune, British-born Peter Glibbery and Peter Davies, Frenchman Claude Chaffard and U.S. citizens Steven Carr and Robert Thompson, along with nine Nicaraguans. In 1986, Glibbery and Chaffard and the Nicaraguans were convicted of hostile acts against Costa Rica, while Carr, Thompson and Davies slipped out of the country while free on bail. In December, Carr died in California of an apparent cocaine overdose.

In 1987, another U.S. farmer, Jim Denby, was forced down in his small airplane while flying along the Atlantic side of Nicaragua on his way to northern Costa Rica. A report surfaced that Denby had filed a flight plan in Tegucigalpa, Honduras stating that he would fly down the Pacific side, raising suspicions that the known Contra sympathizer was on a Contra-related mission in Atlantic Nicaragua. Costa Rican police authorities confirmed that Denby had filed the flight plan, which they received by telex. But an irritated Costa Rican Civil Aviation official noted that the telexed flight plans were part of a system established by the Central American militaries and had no basis in civil law, which required only that pilots fly by line of sight.

In 1989, The Tico Times ran a story on U.S. mercenary “Steven Dupar,” who claimed to be part of a Contra military unit that operated in Nicaragua’s Nueva Guinea Province. Dupar, not his real name, professed fawning allegiance to Contra commander “Ganso” during a rest and relaxation visit to San José, a common practice among Contra guerrillas who infiltrated back and forth across the San Juan River throughout the Contra war.


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