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Tuxtla II Conference

From Central America Update, March, 1996

Central America's presidents met in San Jose with President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico for two days of discussions of regional cooperation between Mexico and Central America. The February 15-16 meetings were dubbed "Tuxtla Gutierrez II," as they followed up on an initial meeting in 1991 in the town of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, Mexico.

The current summit dealt with three groups of issues: political issues such as immigration and law enforcement (including narcotrafficking and auto theft); economic integration, particularly the prospects for negotiating a free trade agreement on a regional basis; and Mexican support for development projects in Central America.

The initial Tuxtla agreement put forth a plan to negotiate a Mexico-Central America free trade zone. However, these negotiations took place bilaterally between Mexico and each Central American country; Costa Rica is the only country to date to have negotiated a free trade pact (1994). Bilateral talks with Nicaragua are "95 percent" complete, while negotiations between Mexico and the "Northern Triangle" (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) have been suspended since July 1994. It was agreed that future negotiations would occur regionally, while taking into account the varying degrees of progress made by bilateral efforts so far.

Discussion of development assistance centered on the more effective use of resources resulting from the 1980 Pact of San Jose. In this agreement, Mexico and Venezuela agreed to invest 20 percent of their oil sales from the Central American countries in infrastructure and energy projects in the region. As a result of this agreement, Mexico is the largest extraregional contributor to the Central American Bank of Economic Integration.