In 1978, a coalition of revolutionary groups known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN) launched an insurgency against the US-backed military dictatorship that was governing Nicaragua. Initial efforts to negotiate a compromise by the Organisation of American States failed, and by June 1979 most of the country was under FSLN control. The former president fled to Honduras, while much of his defeated military formed the Counterrevolution (Contrarrevolución, Contra) movement with support from the Government of the USA. By 1981, the Contras were receiving arms directly from the US and the following year, they launched an insurgency against the FSLN administration. With extensive US support for the Contras and the Government of Cuba assisting the FSLN, Nicaragua became a battleground for foreign powers.1
The first efforts to find a solution to the armed conflicts plaguing Central America during the 1980s were led by the Government of Costa Rica, which proposed a plan to bring peace to the region in 1986. After the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua approved the plan in a series of agreements signed in Esquipulas in 1986-1987, the President of Costa Rica received the Nobel Peace Prize.2 The agreements created a framework for stabilising the region but offered little in the way of direct solutions to the conflict in Nicaragua. Some progress was made towards peace in January 1988 when the FSLN administration came to terms with a relatively small indigenous armed group.3 The real breakthrough, however, came a month later when growing international condemnation, the Iran-Contra scandal, and a 1986 International Court of Justice judgement against the USA regarding its involvement in the conflict forced the American government to cut its support for the Contras. The following month, the FSLN administration and the Contras agreed a ceasefire.4 At a summit in February 1989, the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica approved a joint declaration in which the FSLN would introduce reforms and schedule early elections, while Contra forces would be disarmed.5 An additional demobilisation agreement was signed in August 1989, mandating the United Nations Observer Group in Central America (Observadores de Naciones Unidas en Centroamérica, ONUCA) to verify and assist with its implementation.6 ONUCA finished disarming the Contras in June 1990, marking the end of the peace process.7 These agreements served to end the armed conflict in Nicaragua.