3/31/2016 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute
President Enrique Peña Nieto is in Washington this week to participate in the Nuclear Summit hosted by U.S. President Obama. While most attention has been focused on the participation of other countries in the talks, the explicit request by the United States government for the Mexican President’s presence offers an opportunity to focus on Mexico’s highly positive role in the global nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards regime. Although Mexico is not a major nuclear player, with no nuclear weapons and only one nuclear power plant of note (Laguna Verde, a 1.365 GW capacity plant that produces 4.5% of the nation’s electricity), the country has nonetheless played an important role in the history of non-proliferation and continues to be a showcase for best practices in the nuclear safeguards realm.
Mexico is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), ratifying the treaty in 1969 and the Additional Protocol in 2004. It is also party to the 1979 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, ratified in 1988. Most importantly, however, Mexico became a pioneer of the non-proliferation movement through the 1967 hosting and negotiation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco (Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean). This groundbreaking treaty among the nations of the western hemisphere was instrumental in making Latin America a nuclear weapons-free zone. Just as significant as the impact of the treaty in the hemisphere has been its legacy in Mexico’s foreign service, where it is seen as representing the pinnacle of Mexican diplomatic prowess. Mexico serves as the depository for the treaty. Alfonso Garcia Robles, the Mexican diplomat who was the driving force behind the treaty and who later became foreign minister, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 for his achievement.