Last month, an agreement between Russia and Mexico, on a nuclear program, went into effect. Actually, the agreement, which was negotiated in 2013, was officially adopted by Mexico on July 18, 2015. The agreement establishes a working group for developing, researching, designing and constructing peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Basically, anything having to do with the peaceful use of nuclear energy will be worked on by both countries. For many of you reading this, nuclear energy and Mexico are not words normally associated with each other. Some of you may even be wondering why Russia is working with Mexico on nuclear energy development with a small minority of you subscribing sinister motives to the partnership.
The fact is that Mexico has been a leader in nuclear use and more importantly in international controls of nuclear weapons proliferation since the end of World War II. However, like this latest agreement between Mexico and Russia, it gets lost in the noise of Mexico being a backwards nation.
Right off the start, let me dispel a frequent myth that sometimes crops up in Wikipedia and right-wing social media circles, Mexico does not have nuclear weapons and it has not pursued a program to develop them. Mexico (NPR: 2010), like Argentina and Brazil have the technical capability and resources to develop crude nuclear weapons but, thanks to Mexico’s leadership, Latin America is a nuclear weapon free zone today.
On April 25, 1969, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Tlatelolco Treaty entered into force. The treaty, adopted by 33 countries prohibits the testing, the use, the manufacture, the production and prohibits nuclear weapons in the Caribbean and Latin America. The last country in the region to ratify the treaty was Cuba, on October 23, 2002.
Additionally, the Mexican Constitution specifically prohibits the use of nuclear energy for weapons.
In 1982, Alfonso García Robles was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as the “driving force” behind the Tlateloco Treaty. Shortly after its participation in World War II, Mexico was heavily involved in the formation of the United Nations. Mexico is one of the original 51 nations that signed on to the UN in 1945.
However, although Mexico was adamant about prohibiting nuclear weapons proliferation, it is not against the peaceful use of nuclear technology development.
Currently, Mexico has two nuclear reactors generating about 4% of the country’s energy needs. Mexico’s first reactor began operating in 1989. Mexico first began developing nuclear technology in 1956 with the creation of the country’s National Commission on Nuclear Energy. In 1976, construction of the first Laguna Verde nuclear plant was begun. The plant was designed by Mexican civil engineers and is operated by Mexican engineers. In addition, Mexico has one research nuclear reactor operating and another sub-critical one, also for research in operation.
An emphasis on environmental concerns about fossil fuels by the Mexican government, continued reduction of fossil fuel resources and a growing economy has the Mexican government emphasizing more nuclear plants. Earlier this year, the Mexican government agreed to a tentative schedule to launch three new nuclear plants by 2026, 2027 and 2028.
Mexico has also launched a study program for deploying small reactors to power sea water desalination plants for agricultural use.
A cursory examination of the latest nuclear agreement, this time with Russia, reveals many geopolitical issues that many individuals do not realize when it comes to Mexico. Many of the GOP candidates are focused on Russia, and especially Putin’s assumed sinister motives on the world stage. Some of Washington’s politicians complain about Russia’s role in nuclear weapons technology with rouge states, like Iran.
Yet, a nuclear agreement is signed between arch-enemy Russia and Mexico, on the United States’ doorstep and little, if any commentary, is made. I bet many, if not all of the current GOP contenders, to include Donald Trump, have no idea that this agreement is in place.
The fact is that thinking of Mexico as a technologically advanced society destroys the carefully crafted rhetoric politicians use for political points and thus they either do not know about it or conveniently ignore it.
There is nothing sinister about the agreement, rather it is two nations looking to work together to make their respective countries better for their citizens.
For Mexico, the latest agreement shows that it is further expanding its technological sector and influence on the world’s geopolitical stage. It shows that Mexico continues to embrace the concept to not become dependent on one nation or geopolitical sphere of influence but rather to work with all nations towards a peaceful outcome.