The 1986-1990 peace process ended the war in Nicaragua and created the framework for a comprehensive disarmament programme to take place across the country. This task was carried out by the International Support and Verification Commission (Comisión Internacional de Apoyo y Verificación, CIAV), a newly formed organisation established by the secretary-generals of the UN and the Organisation of American States (OAS). Led by two Argentinians, the 700 staff of the CIAV were faced with the challenge of disarming and repatriating over 18,000 Contras and displaced civilians over the border in Costa Rica and Honduras as well as ensuring the peaceful reintegration of tens of thousands of combatants in Nicaraguan territory back into society.1
The Disarmament Demobilisation Reintegration programme ran into problems almost immediately thanks to the widespread instability and lawlessness in post-conflict Nicaragua. When it became apparent that the government had no intention of drawing down its forces in line with the Contras, recently disarmed Contra troops began to rearm in late 1990 and continued their insurgency, becoming known as Recontras. The CIAV estimated that by the spring of 1992, roughly 1,000 Recontras organised in 13 separate groups were operating in northern Nicaragua.2 One such group, the Northern Front 3-80 (Frente Norte 3-80, FN 3-80), proved to be the most organised. In one 1993 attack, FN 3-80 took 41 government delegates hostage. This crisis was resolved by the mediation of a truce by the CIAV on 25 August, which led to the release of the hostages unharmed, but the conflict erupted again just a month later.
Progress was made in 1994 with the negotiation of an agreement which recognised FN 3-80 as a legal entity, provided its troops with provisions to sustain themselves during the peace process, and initiated a comprehensive reintegration process that guaranteed housing and assistance to demobilising combatants. While negotiations continued, 164 FN 3-80 personnel were accepted into the police academy while some leaders were incorporated into local government.3 The talks culminated on 30 May 1997 with a peace agreement witnessed by representatives of the church and the CIAV.4 The accord provided for the end of the conflict and the incremental disarmament of remaining FN 3-80 forces in line with the fulfilment of scheduled programmes by the Government of Nicaragua. With the framework built up over the previous years in place, this final agreement was implemented within two months, ending the conflict, and leaving FN 3-80 completely disarmed.