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The Central American Parliament (Spanish: Parlamento Centroamericano), also known as PARLACEN is a political institution and parliamentary body of Central American Integration System (SICA). Its headquarters are in Guatemala City.
The PARLACEN origins date back to the Contadora Group, a project of the 1980s that sought to help resolve the civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Although the Contadora group was disbanded in 1986, the idea of a greater Central American integration remained, giving rise to the Esquipulas II Agreement, which among other things, decided to create the Central American Parliament. The Treaty establishing the Central American Parliament and other political bodies was signed in 1987; its first formal session was carried out on 28 October 1991 in Guatemala City. The PARLACEN as political body in the region is part of the Central American Integration System SICA, established by the Protocol of Tegucigalpa to the Charter of the Organization of American States (ODECA) signed on 13 December 1991. SICA has the fundamental aim to realize an integration that is political and ideological representative in a pluralistic democratic system that guarantees free elections and participation on equal conditions for political parties.
One of the tasks of PARLACEN as a regional political forum is the analysis of basic conditions for democracy, peace and the integration of Central America as well as working out initiatives for its realization. Furthermore it is charged with furthering human rights and international law.
The historic Declaration of Esquipulas I which was adopted by the presidents of the Central American states in the city of Esquipulas (Guatemala) on 25 May 1986 included the following declaration: "It is necessary to establish and complement activities that support understanding and cooperation with institutional structures. They shall make possible to strengthen the dialogue, the common development, democracy and pluralism as fundamental elements for peace in the region and for the integration of Central America. Therefore the foundation of PARLACEN is necessary. Its members are elected freely by universal and direct elections through which the principle of political and participative pluralism is followed."
With that the agreement of PARLACEN and other political authorities was signed in October (8th, 15th and 16th) 1987 by Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. In the beginning it was an instrument which came into force for only three states (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) on 1 May 1990. PARLACEN was formed on 28 October 1991 and has its head office in Guatemala City, Republic of Guatemala.
PARLACEN as the political organ of this region is part of the Central American Integration System (SICA). This was admitted into the Charta of the Organisation of the Central American States (ODECA) by the Protocol of Tegucigalpa which was signed on 13 December 1999. The basic aim of SICA is the realisation of the integration of Central America in order to make it a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development.
PARLACEN is the regional assembly of SICA and acts as a permanent political organ to represent opinions and to carry out analyses and discussions about political, economic and cultural affairs of common interest. It is to achieve a peaceful coexistence within the framework of security and social welfare, which is well-founded in representative and participative democracy, in pluralism and in respect for national legislation and international law.
PARLACEN has the status of a legal entity according to international law.
The following countries comprise the PARLACEN:
Between 1998 and 2010 the Dominican Republic sent 22 appointed members. Since 2010 it is a full member of the Central American Parliament with delegates elected directly by universal suffrage. (See note) 
Newly elected President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli at the time critic of PARLACEN while on his campaign trail vowed he would retreat Panama from PARLACEN if he won the presidency. On December 11, 2009 - law 78 passed withdrawing Panama from PARLACEN. Later that law was found unconstitutional first by resolution of the Central American Court of Justice. The court stated that there is no mechanism to withdraw from the PARLACEN and Panama cannot opt out from the regional parliamentary body. on January 2012 the Panamanian Supreme court re-affirmed that same ruling. Panama returned to PARLACEN as instructed by the courts. Panama also showed a lot more interest after SICA signed a free trade agreement with the European Union.
The PARLACEN is the regional and permanent organ of political and democratic representation of the System of Central American Integration (SICA) with the main purpose to realize the Central American integration.
PARLACEN's organisational structure exists of the Plenum, the Board of Parliament and the Secretary Office.
The plenum is the highest body of PARLACEN and is formed by all representatives. Furthermore the committees and parliamentary parties are involved with its tasks.
The responsibilities of the plenum are the following:
They are parliamentary authorities who – in order to draw up a corresponding report – are supposed to conduct studies and examinations which are either within their sphere of competence or are directed to them by the board or the plenum.
The working committees of PARLACEN can be structured as follows: Permanent commissions are established in the internal rules to work on affairs of the commission with unlimited duration. The permanent commissions are formed of at most two representatives per state and not exceeding twelve members in total.
At the moment there are the following thirteen permanent commissions:
Extraordinary commissions are established by the plenum for affairs that are of special importance and institutional significance for PARLACEN as well as for the process of integration.
Special commissions are established by the board of parliament to handle special affairs.
They monitor the political trend of the Central American representatives and are organised according to the political orientation of their groups. The parliamentary groups are founded through the adoption of an internal statute that is presented in the plenary assembly. The board of parliament registers each parliamentary group. The statute is published and consists of the group's ideological principles, the political objectives and the regulations.
It is the executive body for decisions that come out of the plenum and therefore is the administrative body of PARLACEN. It is expendable according to its internal rules.
The board of parliament is elected out of the members. For the period of one year it is a permanent organ and is made up as follows:
The board makes its decisions with approval of seven of its members. In the event of a tie the votes of the presidency count as qualified majority. The presidency is filled by rota system corresponding to the alphabetical order of the member states, starting with the state, which holds the head office.
It is possible to appeal against all resolutions at the plenum. Owing to the special observer’s status of the Dominican Republic, one vice-president and one secretary act on their behalf at the plenary.
The tasks of the board are the following:
The secretary office is the technical-administrative organ of PARLACEN and is divided into three sections, which basically have the following functions and responsibilities: The secretary office for parliamentary affairs handles and obeys the decisions of PARLACEN. It reports to the plenum on a regular basis and is of technical assistance to the plenum as well as to the commissions in all of their activities. In the same way it coordinates and manages the advice of the commissions and has to assist the extended board with the working out of the agenda for the meetings of the plenum when necessary.
The secretary office for administration and finance has to administer all branches, manager’s offices, departments and administrative units as well as the personnel of PARLACEN and has to control the proper administration of its resources.
The secretary office of the board offers technical help to the board in questions relating to the responsibilities of and the topics worked out by the board.
|President||Term in Office||Country|
|Roberto Carpio Nicolle||October 1991 – October 1992||Guatemala|
|Ilsa Diaz Zelaya||October 1992 – October 1993||Honduras|
|Jose Francisco Merino Lopez||October 1993 – July 1994||El Salvador|
|Victor Augusto Vela Mena||July 1994 – October 1994||Guatemala|
|Roland Valenzuela Oyuela||October 1994 – December 1995||Honduras|
|Raul Zaldívar Guzmán||December 1995 – October 1996||Honduras|
|Ernesto Lima Mena||October 1996 – October 1997||El Salvador|
|Marco Antonio Solares Pérez||October 1997 – October 1998||Guatemala|
|Carlos Roberto Reina||October 1998 – October 1999||Honduras|
|Jose Ernesto Somarriba Sosa||October 1999 – October 2000||Nicaragua|
|Hugo Guiraud Gargano||October 2000 – October 2001||Panama|
|Rodrigo Samayoa Rivas||October 2001 – October 2002||El Salvador|
|Victor Augusto Vela Mena||October 2002 – October 2003||Guatemala|
|Mario Facussé Handal||October 2003 – October 2004||Honduras|
|Fabio Gadea Mantilla||October 2004 – October 2005||Nicaragua|
|Julio Enrique Palacios Sambrano||October 2005 – October 2006||Panama|
|Ciro Cruz Cepeda Pena||October 2006 – October 2007||El Salvador|
|Julio Guillermo González Gamarra||October 2007 – October 2008||Guatemala|
|Gloria Guadalupe Oquelí Solórzano de Macoto||October 2008 – October 2009||Honduras|
|Jacinto José Suárez Espinoza||October 2009 - October 2010||Nicaragua|
|Dorindo Jayan Cortez Marciaga||October 2010 - October 2011||Panama|
|Manolo Pichardo||October 2011 - October 2012||Dominican Republic|
The 20 elected members representing every member state the Central American Parliament are elected at the same time as the presidential elections of every member state according to article 2 of the Internal Regulations of the Central American Parliament. The former President of every member state, as well as every vice-president and prime minister are also de jure members of the PARLACEN from the end of their term till the end of their successor's term.