To Tlateloco, With Love

St. Valentine’s day is more than a day to buy little gifts for your love, it is also a day to celebrate the world’s first nuclear weapons free zone.

It began in 1962, West Side Story won best picture at the Oscars, Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel, the Beatles released their first album (My Bonnie), Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro, Jackie Kennedy gave the first televised tour of the White House and the Brazilian delegate to the UN General Assembly proposed making Latin America a nuclear weapons free zone.

In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Brazilian delegate presented a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly. Tensions were high, and the Cuban delegation insisted that Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal be included in such a zone, they also demanded the elimination of foreign military bases in the region. The 1962 resolution failed to pass.

However, just a few months later in April 1963, the Presidents of five Latin American countries — Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico, announced they were ready to sign a multilateral treaty making Latin America a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. It was voted on later that year at the UN General Assembly. A conference to negotiate specific aspects of the treaty was held, and On February 14, 1967, the Treaty was signed at a regional meeting of Latin American countries at Tlatelolco, a section of Mexico City.

45 years after this first nuclear weapons free zone treaty entered into force, efforts are still underway to get nuclear weapons states to sign onto protocols of other zones. These protocols are basically security assurances- when the recognized nuclear weapons states ratify them, they promise not to use, or threaten, states within the zone with nuclear weapons. These ‘negative security assurances’ add reason and justification for states to join the zones. They add to their security. These are tools to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and by withholding or delaying ratification of them, nuclear weapons states continue to send a message that the security of the non nuclear weapons states is less important than their own.

As discussions and preparations continue towards building a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, it is high time for nuclear weapons states to take these zone more seriously. To ratify relevant protocols, and demonstrate that these zones, endorsed by the NPT itself, are truly a path towards undiminished security for all.