The Treaty of Tlateloco

Cara Ta
March 15, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


The Tlatelolco Treaty, also known as the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean established a nuclear weapons free zone. Under the terms of the treaty, the parties agreed to both prohibit and prevent the "testing, use, manufacture, production, or acquisition by any means whatsoever of any nuclear weapons" as well as the "receipt, storage, installation, deployment, and any form of possession of any nuclear weapon." [1] Drafted in Mexico City on February 14, 1967, the treaty was the result of mutual agreement by Latin American and Caribbean countries to keep their region of the world free of nuclear weapons. That is, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis catalyzed the creation of the Tlatelolco Treaty as Latin American countries recognized the importance of shielding their nations from the possibility of nuclear conflict under the Cold War.

Officially, the Tlatelolco Treaty came into force on April 22, 1969, after a number of countries including Brazil, Bolivia, El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico had completed the ratification process. However, thirty-three more years would come to pass before the entire Latin American and Caribbean region would be protected by the treaty. For example, Argentina did not ratify the treaty until 1994, and was not protected by the treaty during the Falklands Wars. This is particularly notable because in the interim before ratification, "Argentina has the most advanced nuclear program in Latin America, and according to American intelligence, the capacity to build nuclear weapons in three years or less." [2] Ultimately, Cuba was the country to sign and ratify the Tlatelolco Treaty in 1995. On October 23, 2002, the Tlatelolco Treaty was signed and ratified by all thirty-three nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.


The Tlatelolco Treaty is critical in that it was the first nuclear weapons free zone created in a densely populated zone. That is, a nuclear weapons free zone allows for the prevention of nuclear proliferation. As Mexican diplomat Alfonso Garcia Robles said, "We should attempt to achieve a gradual broadening of the zones of the world from which nuclear weapons are prohibited to a point where the territories of Powers which possess those terrible tools of mass destruction will become "something like contaminated islets subjected to quarantine."" [3] Therefore, the Tlatelolco Treaty is an exemplary contribution to the ultimate goal of the 1968 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty - a world of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear global zero.

© Cara Ta. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] W. Epstein, "The Making of the Treaty of Tlatelolco." J. Hist. Int. Law 3, 153 (2001).

[2] E. Schumacher, "Hemispheric Pressure on Argentina to Ban the Bomb," New York Times, 15 Apr 84.

[3] Nuclear Weapon Free Zones," United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, p. 9