It’s some sort of apocalyptic nightmare. In the second half of the 20th century, humanity lived in fear of a possible nuclear catastrophe. The possibility of an imminent confrontation with nuclear weapons between the two rival superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union Added concern is nuclear proliferation leading to other countries and even more worrisome terrorist organizations The bomb can be controlled.
In an attempt to curb this possibility, the administration of US President Dwight Einstein launched the Atoms for Peace initiative in 1953, which promised to facilitate access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For countries that have renounced arming themselves with the bomb.
In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created, part of the United Nations; And a decade later, in 1968, he founded Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to overcome this risk.
However, these efforts It fails to prevent the fact that practically every part of the world has a country It has developed nuclear weapons.
The United States and Russia (the ultimate heirs of the Soviet arsenal) were joined by countries in Europe (the United Kingdom and France); in Asia (China, North Korea, India and Pakistan); in the Middle East (Israel, which has not formally admitted having the bomb); And Even in Africa (South Africa is the only country that developed the bomb and voluntarily dismantled it).
Thus, states from practically all regions of the world possess nuclear weapons or, with one notable exception: Latin America, where not only are there no nuclear powers, but in addition, It is the first populated area in the world to declare itself a nuclear-weapon-free zone. How did this happen? The reasons are many, but the first keys were invented six decades ago.
“The Story of Why Latin America Has No Nuclear Weapons Prior to the missile crisis of October 1962, When the Soviet Union launched missiles at Cuba it created a crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union.Luis Rodríguez, a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC, for its acronym in English) explains. BBC Mundo.
“In response, several countries in Latin America decided to begin building a multilateral response To prevent another missile crisis in the region. This is the first time that countries in Latin America have seen the dangers of nuclear power so close to home”, says the expert about the episode considered the closest point humanity will see the outbreak of World War III.
Rodriguez explains that since the late 1950s there has been concern about preventing another country from doing what the United States did to Hiroshima. In Europe, Ireland is one of the countries that promoted this idea and in Latin America it is Costa Rica. However, by then That danger seemed far away.
Ryan Musto, Director of Forum and Research Initiatives at the Global Research Institute at the University of William and Mary (Virginia), admits that the idea of banning the bomb existed in Latin America as early as 1962, but since then everything has changed.
“The Cuban Missile Crisis was a major catalyst And Brazil is proposing making Latin America a nuclear-weapon-free zone as a possible solution to that crisis, as it would facilitate the withdrawal of missiles from Cuba while allowing the U.S. and the U.S. to remain safe. ” says Musto BBC Mundo.
That effort was unsuccessful, and the missile crisis was resolved through direct dialogue between Washington and Moscow, but many Latin American countries continued to watch. Creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone is a formula to avoid it in the future A similar crisis will occur again.
Hence the region Started a process of negotiations which culminated in February 1967 With the creation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which prohibited the development, acquisition, testing and use of nuclear weapons in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The treaty entered into force in 1969, but it did not end the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region, as two major states in the region were reluctant to fully accept it.
Brazil was one of the early promoters of a Latin American nuclear-weapon-free zone. He soon changed his position on the issue and ceded the leadership to Mexico. The Mexican effort was rewarded by the fact that the treaty bore the name Tlatelolco, where the country’s foreign ministry had its headquarters at the time. With the Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Mexican diplomat Alfonso García Robles in 1982.
“After the 1964 coup in Brazil, that country’s military elites decided to invest less in Latin America’s militarization program,” says Rodriguez. The other country in the region, from the point of view of nuclear technology, is Argentina, which has refused to fully accept Tlatelolco.
“After 1962, Mexico became the visible face of this effort. Brazil withdraws from it. It has scientists who question themselves. Do we really want to give up the right to possess nuclear weapons?What if one day we need them?” says Musto.
The expert affirms that both countries formally support the expansion of the Tlatelolco Treaty, as it seemed wrong not to do so and tries to influence its expansion. “Silent nuclear explosions“ (PNE).
Luis Rodríguez explains that it was believed at the time that nuclear power would be a tool to accelerate the development of Latin American countries. PNE can be used for tunnels, canals or even hydroelectric projects.
“That’s what led countries like Brazil and Argentina To develop some nuclear dual-use technology projects“It can be used for civil or military purposes, which has come to create some tensions, especially with international organizations,” says Rodriguez.
Both Rodriguez and Musto point out that the governments of Argentina and Brazil have not been proven to have programs to develop nuclear weapons, although there are indications that people within their governments did. who were in favor of that possibility. What Brazil and Argentina have done is develop a nuclear program outside the norms of the international system Nuclear energy, that’s why they are called the secret projects of Brazil and Argentina. Rodriguez says.
“There are historians such as Carlos Batti, an Italian working in Brazil, who do not find that the motivations were purely military or nuclear weapons. What is more apparent is that there was a split between the two countries. Between the factions of the elite who wanted nuclear weapons and the factions who decided not to have them”, he adds.
Musto notes that both countries were very concerned about the limits that international treaties might impose on their nuclear development options. “Both countries wanted to develop a complete and independent nuclear fuel production cycle. They don’t want to affect their nuclear sovereignty”, he points out.
Nevertheless, in the early 1990s Both countries give up In their right to peaceful nuclear explosions, they are fully integrated with Tlatelolco and, later, in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. These decisions were followed in the early 1990s by both Argentina and Brazil abandoning their ballistic missile development programs. The plans, coupled with nuclear development programs outside the NPT, created concern in the international community.
In addition to the impact of the missile crisis, there were other factors that contributed to the fact that no country in Latin America – particularly Brazil and Argentina, which were in the best position to achieve it – was equipped with the weapon. For example, Ryan Musto points out. The reality is that the region does not have the same intense competition and conflict as in other parts of the world.
“Yes, Brazil and Argentina are rivals, But it never reached a level of strength that led to an arms race. “In general, Latin America appears to be a relatively stable region when it comes to interstate conflicts,” the expert points out. Another factor that particularly contributed to the case of Brazil and Argentina was that both countries transitioned to democracy in the mid-1980s.
The high cost of the nuclear weapons program may also have played a deterrent role. “Building a nuclear power program is very expensive. A lot of infrastructure is needed, a lot of experts and a lot of knowledge A nuclear power program can be implemented, Luis Rodriguez notes.
This high cost is not measured, however, by the amount of money required for the nuclear weapons program, but Also for diplomatic expenses An honor earned by going against the international community’s consensus against nuclear proliferation and forsaking opportunities related to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
According to Musto, the latter was a clear example in 1975 when Brazil signed a massive nuclear deal with West Germany. History based on the transfer of nuclear technology to a country in the South. “This deal will help Brazil build 8 nuclear reactors. ok, The United States pressured West Germany because Brazil was not a member of the NPT There are skeptics about its nuclear program – and some may also have commercial interests America’s — and, in the end, the deal didn’t go through,” he points out.
“Later, those kinds of aspirations faded as Brazil and Argentina did not fully participate in the nuclear standards system envisioned under the NPT regime.”, he adds. Therefore, if fully integrated with international organizations regulating peaceful use, both countries got more benefits and opportunities. Rather than trying to protect the freedom to operate in this field outside of nuclear energy.