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Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America
Treaty of Tlatelolco

The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (also known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco) obligates Latin American parties not to acquire or possess nuclear weapons, nor to permit the storage or deployment of nuclear weapons on their territories by other countries. Besides the agreement among the Latin American countries themselves, there are two Additional Protocols dealing with matters that concern non-Latin American countries. Protocol I involves an undertaking by non-Latin American countries that have territories in the nuclear-free zone. Protocol II involves an undertaking by those powers which possess nuclear weapons. The United States is a party to both protocols.

The United States has favored the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones where, inter alia, they would limit the spread of nuclear weapons; they would not disturb existing security arrangements; provisions exist for adequate verification; the initiative for such zones originates in the geographical area concerned; and all states important to the denuclearization of the area participate. Considering that Soviet proposals for the denuclearization of Central Europe and other areas have not met these criteria, the United States has opposed them. From the start, however, the United States supported and encouraged Latin American countries in this undertaking.

In mid-1962, the Brazilian representative to the UN General Assembly proposed making Latin America a nuclear-weapon-free zone. At the seventeenth regular session of the General Assembly, during the October Cuban missile crisis, a draft resolution calling for such a zone was submitted by Brazil and supported by Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador. While asserting support for the principle, Cuba stipulated certain conditions, including the requirement that Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal Zone be included in the zone, and that foreign military bases, especially Guantanamo Naval Base, be eliminated. The draft resolution was not put to a vote at the General Assembly that year.

On April 29, 1963, at the initiative of the President of Mexico, the Presidents of five Latin American countries -- Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico -- announced that they were prepared to sign a multilateral agreement that would make Latin America a nuclear-weapon-free zone. On November 27, 1963, this declaration received the support of the UN General Assembly, with the United States voting in the affirmative.

The Latin American nations followed this initiative by extensive and detailed negotiations among themselves. At the Mexico City Conference (November 23-27, 1964) a Preparatory Commission for the Denuclearization of Latin America was created, with instructions to prepare a draft Treaty. Important differences among the Latin American countries emerged over questions of defining the boundaries of the nuclear-weapon-free zone, transit guarantees, and safeguards on peaceful nuclear activities.

On February 14, 1967, the Treaty was signed at a regional meeting of Latin American countries at Tlatelolco, a section of Mexico City. On December 5, 1967, the UN General Assembly endorsed it by a vote of 82-0 with 28 abstentions, the United States voting in support of the Treaty. As of January 1, 1989, the Treaty had entered into force for 23 Latin American states. Belize and Guyana were not invited to accede to the Treaty because a special regime is foreseen for those political entities whose territories are wholly or partially the subject of disputes or claims by an extracontinental state and one or more Latin American states. When all eligible states ratify the Treaty, it will enter into force for all of them, as specified in Article 28. Alternatively, under that article, any Latin American state may bring the Treaty into force for itself at any time by waiving that provision.

The basic obligations of the Treaty are contained in Article I:

1. The contracting parties undertake to use exclusively for peaceful purposes the nuclear material and facilities which are under their jurisdiction, and to prohibit and prevent in their respective territories;

2.The contracting parties also undertake to refrain from engaging in, encouraging or authorizing, directly or indirectly, or in any way participating in the testing, use, manufacture, production, possession, or control of any nuclear weapon.

Important provisions in the Treaty deal with verification. Treaty parties undertake to negotiate agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency for application of its safeguards to their nuclear activities. The Treaty also establishes an organization to help ensure compliance with Treaty provisions -- the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL) -- with a General Conference, a Council, and a Secretariat as its permanent organs. The five-member elected Council is empowered to perform "special inspections."

Of the accompanying protocols, Protocol I calls on nations outside the Treaty zone to apply the denuclearization provisions of the Treaty to the territories in the zone "for which de jure or de facto they are internationally responsible." All four powers having such territories have signed -- the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and the United States. All except France have ratified. The U.S. Protocol I territories include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Since the entry into force of the Panama Canal Treaties on October 1, 1979, U.S. obligations to the former Canal Zone have been governed by those treaties and by Protocol II to the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

President Carter signed Protocol I for the United States in 1977. In November 1981, the Senate completed its review of the Protocol and gave its advice and consent to ratification subject to certain understandings which were supported by the executive branch and are outlined below. President Reagan ratified Protocol I in November 1981, and the U.S. instrument of ratification was deposited in Mexico City on November 23, 1981.

Senate advice and consent to ratification of Protocol I was made subject to three understandings:

In Protocol II, nuclear-weapon states undertake (1) to respect the denuclearized status of the zone; (2) not to contribute to acts involving violation of obligations of the parties; and (3) not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the contracting parties. France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and the Soviet Union are parties to Protocol II.

The United States signed Protocol II on April 1, 1968. When President Nixon transmitted it to the Senate on August 13, 1970, he recommended that the Senate give its advice and consent subject to certain understandings and declarations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee revised the statement slightly during its hearings on the Protocol in September 1970 and February 1971, and the full Senate made its consent to ratification, on April 19, 1971, subject to the revised statement. The President ratified the Protocol on May 8, 1971, and the United States deposited the instrument of ratification on May 12, 1971, subject to the following understandings and declarations:

The Treaty of Tlatelolco was first amended at a special general conference in July 1990 to attach the phrase "and the Caribbean" to the title. The Treaty was amended again in May 1991 to replace paragraph 2 of Article 25. The original Treaty paragraph had excluded political entities "part or all of which whose territory" is in dispute with "an extra-continental country and one or more Latin American States" prior to the opening of signature of the Treaty. This clause effectively excluded Belize and Guyana from membership. Belize (formerly British Honduras) attained its independence from the UK in 1981; Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966, but has ongoing territorial disputes with Venezuela and Suriname.

This amendment replaced the original text with the following: "The condition of State Party to the Treaty of Tlatelolco shall be restricted to independent states which are situated within the zone of application of the Treaty in accordance with Article 4 of same, and with Paragraph 1 of the present Article, and which were members of the United Nations as of December 10, 1985, as well as the nonautonomous territories mentioned in Document OAS/CER.P, AG/DOC. 1939/85 of November 5, 1985, once they attain their independence."

This amendment, adopted by consensus at the 1991 General Conference, has not yet been ratified by all of the current contracting parties to the Treaty.

The third amending of the Treaty occurred at a special general conference in August 1992, when amendments to Articles 14-16 and 19 were adopted. The most significant of these was a change in Article 16 designating the IAEA as having the sole authority to conduct special inspections of Tlatelolco parties; the original text gave this authority both to the IAEA and to OPANAL, the Treaty's executive agency.

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