Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

Tijuana Mayor Dr. Jorge Enrique Astiazarán Orci at the recent monument dedication. (Photo: Courtesy of the author)

The Treaty of Tlatelolco: Giving Thanks to Our Latin American Neighbors Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Robert Dodge

Americans gathered around their Thanksgiving tables last week reflecting on what they were thankful for this past year. There was the potential for much angst after a year with significant division in our nation often emphasizing differences and talk of building walls to separate us from our neighbors. In contrast, at our table we gave thanks for our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors celebrating their courage and the Treaty of Tlatelolco, a little known treaty that was drafted 50 years ago this February creating the world’s first nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) and which ultimately served as the model for all subsequent NWFZ to follow.

In the border town of Tijuana, at its historic coastal Friendship Park adjacent the Mexican side of the wall, a monument commemorating the northwestern point of this NWFZ was unveiled this past week with great fanfare though remarkably no coverage from the neighbor to the north, the United States. 

Latin American nations drafted the treaty on February 14, 1967 in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, and it went into force on April 22, 1968.  Today all 33 nations of Latin America and the Caribbean have signed the treaty as part of the 80 million square kilometers of the entire southern hemisphere that are free of nuclear weapons.

Quoting from the treaty these nations are convinced:

That the incalculable destructive power of nuclear weapons has made it imperative that the legal prohibition of war should be strictly observed in practice if the survival of civilization and the survival of mankind itself is to be assured,

That nuclear weapons, whose terrible effects are suffered, indiscriminately and inexorably, by military forces and civilian population alike, constitute, through the persistence of the radioactivity they release, an attack on the integrity of the human species and ultimately, may even render the whole earth uninhabitable,

That general and complete disarmament under effective international control is a vital matter which all the peoples of the world equally demand,

That the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which seems inevitable unless States, in the exercise of their sovereign rights, impose restrictions on themselves in order to prevent it, would make any agreement on disarmament enormously difficult and would increase the danger of the outbreak of a nuclear conflagration,

That the establishment of militarily denuclearized zones is closely linked with the maintenance of peace and security in the respective regions.

The document establishes Latin America and the Caribbean as a nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ).  Each country signing the treaty promises, as stated in Article 1, to outlaw within their territory "the testing, use, manufacture, production, or acquisition by any means whatsoever of any nuclear weapons" and "the receipt, storage, installation, deployment, and any form of possession of any nuclear weapons.

Protocol I of the treaty obligates states with territories in Latin America (France, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to keep the region a NWFZ.  The four nations have signed the treaty.  Protocol II obligates nuclear-weapon states (NWS) not to undertake any action that would violate the nuclear-weapons free status of the region, including using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against any of the states participating in the treaty.  The People's Republic of China, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (now the Russian Federation), France, the United Kingdom, and the United States had ratified Protocol II.

For verification purposes the Treaty created the Organization of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), a regional organization that ensures that all contracting parties are abiding by the treaty.   OPANAL is similar to the organization of the United Nations.  There is a General Conference that convenes every two years and at special sessions, that are called if necessary.  Among other duties, it establishes "procedures to ensure the adherence to the Control System established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco," creates accords with governments and international agencies, and elects the Council and the General Secretary to four-year terms. 

From the earliest days of the nuclear age to the present, the nations of Latin America have played a significant role in the work to abolish nuclear weapons. During last month’s United Nations First Committee, they were among the sponsoring group of nations that brought forth a resolution, L41 to commence negotiations and passage of a nuclear weapons ban treaty next year beginning in March. This treaty will outlaw nuclear weapons around the world just as every other weapon of mass destruction has been banned before. No longer will the world be held hostage to these suicidal weapons that have threatened our very survival as a species. These awakened neighbors have done more to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons while the nuclear powers have lived in a trance. Ultimately nuclear weapons will be eliminated or they will eliminate us. We have much work to do yet much to be thankful for.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Research Reveals How PR Firms Have Spent Decades Fueling Climate Misinformation

"The best time to stop working for fossil fuel clients was 20 years ago, when we had much more time to stop the climate emergency. The second best time is now."

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Decry US Gun Control Failures After 'Truly Sickening' Michigan School Shooting

"A 15-year-old shooter may have picked up the weapon, but Congress—through its inaction on gun violence—may as well have handed it to him."

Brett Wilkins ·


New Climate Study Predicting More Rain Than Snow in the Arctic 'Rings Alarm Bells'

"There are huge ramifications of these changes," said the lead researcher, "all of which have implications on wildlife populations and human livelihoods."

Jessica Corbett ·


Durbin Introduces Amendment to End 'Legacy of Cruelty' by Closing Guantánamo

"It's time at long last to face reality and... close the detention facility at Guantánamo. Let's put this dark chapter behind us once and for all."

Brett Wilkins ·


With SCOTUS Set to Hear Abortion Case, Anti-Choice Groups Prepare to Enact 'Post-Roe Strategy'

Right-wing groups are lobbying lawmakers to pass state-level restrictions and ban sales of abortion pills, should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo