United Nations Observer Group in Central America

December 1989 — January 1999

Central America gained independence from Spain in 1831. A short period of unity followed but local interests caused the area to fragment into five countries; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Over the years, numerous factions emerged which fought guerrilla wars with their own governments and supported factions in neighbouring countries. There was also considerable interference by some of the five governments in their neighbours' affairs. Further complicating the issue was outside interference, particularly by the two superpowers. This situation led to years of terrorism and political turmoil.

In the late 1980s the five governments held meetings aimed at increasing economic co-operation and ending regional disputes. These culminated in a meeting in Guatemala, resulting in the 'Esquipulas II' Agreement. The foreign ministers of the five countries asked the UN for assistance in verifying aspects of the agreement. This led to the formation of ONUCA.

The group's mission was to verify the termination of aid to irregular forces and insurrection movements, and the non-use of the territory of one state for attacks on another. In total, 260 observers were established between the headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and 33 verification centres spread throughout the region. Twelve helicopters, six naval vessels and an aeroplane were also provided. Armed escorts were provided by the armies of countries in which the observers were operating. As the peace process developed, the arms of the Contra rebels and other groups were decommissioned and relations between the governments improved. The mission ended in January 1992.

Operation Details
Duration: 3 December 1998 — 27 January 1992 
Operation type:   UN led Peacekeeping Operations (Observer) 
Commitment:      57 cumulative missions 


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