The countries of Central America had endured several years of civil war and guerrilla warfare. Both American and Soviet-backed forces fought for control of Central American nations. In 1987, the presidents of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica negotiated and signed a peace treaty, the Esquipulas Agreement. The Canadian government had strongly supported the negotiated peace. However, the American government refused to recognize the agreement and continued to support Contra (anti-communist) guerrilla forces in Central America.
In March 1989, the presidents of the Central American nations requested a United Nations (UN) force to establish peace in the region. Pérez de Cuéllar, the UN Secretary General, formulated plans for the establishment of the UN Observer Group in Central America (Spanish Acronym: ONUCA). A Canadian officer, Brigadier-General Ian Douglas, was second in command for the entire force. The Canadian contingent, consisting of 40 military observers and 100 personnel to fly and service eight helicopters, arrived in Honduras on 3 December 1989.
In elections held in El Salvador on 25 February 1990, the Marxist and anti-American Sandinista government suffered a defeat. As a consequence, ONUCA was able to oversee the disarmament of the Contra guerrillas and an era of relative stability followed. By June 1990, the bulk of ONUCA forces had demobilized, leaving only a small group of UN observers in the region.