Central American Parliament

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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.

History[edit]

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.

Legal status and mission[edit]

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.

Member States[edit]

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.[1] (See note) [2]

Panama withdrawal[edit]

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.[3] 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.

Competences and tasks[edit]

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.

Competencies[edit]

  • Propose legislation concerning the integration
  • Democratic control of the integration
  • Initiatives to deepen and amplify the integration

Tasks[edit]

  • Promoting the process of integration and leading the way to the greatest possible cooperation between the Central American states.
  • Proposing draft treaties and agreements which are to be negotiated by the Central American states and forming an opinion of what the SICA proposes
  • Creating special commissions to get to know the discordances between the states who could affect the integration
  • Helping to consolidate a democratic, pluralistic and participative form of government in the Central American states.
  • Promoting the validity of international law.
  • Knowing the nominations and sworn in of the executive authorities of SICA
  • knowing the budgets of the institutions of SICA

Bodies of PARLACEN[edit]

PARLACEN's organisational structure exists of the Plenum, the Board of Parliament and the Secretary Office.

Plenum[edit]

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:

  • It gives advice to the presidents´ assembly concerning affairs of peace, security of Central America and development of the region.
  • Annual election of the board of parliament.
  • Approval of the budget of PARLACEN.
  • Assessment and decision concerning the reports of the board of parliament.
  • Composition and approval of internal decrees of PARLACEN and other necessary regulations.
  • Formation of working commissions being regarded as necessary by the plenum.
  • Proposal of drafts of contracts and agreements that are to be negotiated between the states of Central America and that are supposed to contribute to the satisfaction of the needs in the region.
  • Annual discharge of the boards of the parliamentary standing committees.
  • Additionally: other tasks which are assigned to it by this contract or its additional instruments.

The Parliamentary Committees[edit]

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:

  • Commission of Agriculture, Fishing, Environment and Natural Resources
  • Commission of Urban Development, Public Participation
  • Commission of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
  • Commission of Women, Children, Youth and Family
  • Commission of Monetary Affairs and Finance
  • Commission of Tourism
  • Commission of International Relations and Migration Affairs
  • Commission of Health, Social Security, Population, Labour and Corporation Affairs
  • Commission of Peace, Public Security and Human Rights
  • Commission of Integration, Trade and Economic Development
  • Commission of Legal Affairs, Intgration Law and Regional Institutions
  • Commission of Politics and Party Affairs
  • Commission of Indigenous Peoples and Afro Descendants

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.

Parliamentary groups[edit]

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.

Board of parliament[edit]

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:

  • one president
  • four vice-presidents
  • five secretaries

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:

  • Consideration and handling of all requests for which PARLACEN is in charge.
  • Conveying of the invitations for the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the plenum of PARLACEN.
  • Draft of the budget – designated in Central American Pesos – for the work routine of PARLACEN.
  • Provision with information about respectively relevant results for each member state.
  • Realizing the resolutions of PARLACEN.
  • Handing in the annual report about the execution of its duties and the result of its administration to the plenary as well as the report about the budget.
  • Management and controlling of the secretary office and appointment of necessary personnel. Here the equal treatment of all Central American states has to be taken into consideration.
  • Handling of the economic and organisational affairs which affect PARLACEN.
  • Proposal to the plenum of regulating instruments which are required by the internal order.
  • Creation of special commissions to carry out a task or realize a special function.
  • Proper filling in of vacancies that occur in absence of a representative.
  • Calling of the deputy representative in case of vacancies.
  • Proposal of a suitable list of candidates for the appointment of the internal and external accountants of PARLACEN to the plenary.
  • Formation of delegations for official missions. This has to be done in accordance to the regulating norms for the integration of special missions of PARLACEN.
  • Working out and approval of its own internal rules and task division among its members.
  • As well as other tasks which are assigned to the board by the constitutive contract or by additional instruments.

Secretary office[edit]

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.

Presidents of PARLACEN[edit]

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

Elections to the PARLACEN[edit]

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.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]