Thursday, February 4, 2010

Uncontrolled Beach Privatization

The following article appeared in the weekly Mexican news magazine Proceso and is submitted to our English readers interested in current events in Chacala.

Proceso, Jan. 24, 2010 by Pedro Zamora Briseno

The projected tourist development in Compostela, Nayarit enjoys the support of state Governor Ney Gonzalez and the state police. Community representatives who have been evicted by force from their properties on the ocean complain that they have been threatened and even tortured to make them abandon their living quarters and small businesses from which they barely make a living . The former director of "Fideicomiso Bahia de Banderas (FIBBA)", Pedro Alvarez Hormache, says that all the destruction has been paid for and regrets any "excessive" police force.

Compostela, Nayarit. In the middle of the euphoria caused by tourism and its rewards Governor Ney Gonzalez Sanchez has headed up an accelerated process of privatization of the main beaches of this county that up until now have remained in practically virgin condition. Less than 3 years ago, an intense international marketing campaign was launched with the tourist slogan "Nayarit Riviera" in order to attract investors. At the same time the Nayarit state government started handing over large parcels of property to individual particular buyers and to the National Fund for Tourism (Fonatur) for the construction of luxury tourist centers.

Since 1995, the governor's office through FIBBA has seen that investors acquired beachfront properties expropriated from the ejidos of the region. The ejidos were paid between 130 and 140 pesos per square meter which once the land is developed will be worth as much as 3,000 pesos per square meter.

Back in November 1970, by decree of national President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, eight ejidos from Bahia de Banderas and Compostela suffered the expropriation of 4,136 hectars of coastal lands for the purpose of development.

In the beginning, FIBBA was interested in focusing the attention of investors on Bahia de Banderas, and particularly Pto. Vallarta. However, recently they have focused tourist development on the Nayarit coast of the county of Compostela.

Last December 18th, in giving his fourth governor's report, Ney Gonzalez boasted that during 2009 Nayarit was in first place in the country in tourism investment, constituting 37% of the amount spent in the country, followed by Sinaloa, Baja California, Jalisco, and Tamalipas.

What he did not report is that his government has supported the investors with police force in the evictions of those people situated on the lands earmarked for development in the county of Compostela, where homes and small businesses have been burned and bulldozed by heavy equipment, in addition to approving the takeover of public roads and the blocking of access to the ocean.

Repression and Torture

Those inhabitants who have put up resistance to the evictions and the closings of roads have suffered threats, persecution, jailing, and even torture at the hands of the police, according to statements gathered by Proceso in the communities affected.

The most serious case was in the town El Monteon, where in May of last year, anti-riot police and elements of the Procuraduria General de Justicia del Estado (state police) attacked and overcame dozens of protestors with tear gas that tried to reach the Canalan beach.

In this case, businessmen R. M. Santa Cruz M. and J. C. Bremen V. acquired 25 hectars of land from the local ejido landowners including the original road to the sea. In exchange, they opened an alternate access through a swampy area.

S. Montes Virgen, a witness to the repression (a video of which can be found on the website YouTube), remembers that in the operation 12 men and 4 women were arrested and charged with, among other things, agression against the police.

Mr. Montes, a brother of one of the victims, exposed that when they would not confess or name the leader of the group, the arrestees were tortured by agents of the state police. In the weeks following, they were released on bail but a date has not yet been set by the court.

In this pueblo, where the land sales to investors took place through the ejido of La Penita de Jaltemba, a group of ejido representatives, including Flavio Gomez Covarrubias, condemns the operation as having been illegally done. He claims it violates the law 557/2007, regulation ejido land sales processes. According to his complaint, he charges that some directing members misappropriated the sale to their own benefit.

This reporter recently took a tour of the beaches of Chacala, Boca del Naranjo, Canalan, Punta Raza, Las Cuevitas, and El Playon, all located in the county of Compostela. I confirmed that the majority of the entrances to the beaches are currently guarded by elements of the state police and private security companies who control access by tourists and locals.

Hundreds of meters before you arrive at Boca del Naranjo, you come to part of the lands sold to Fonatur for the construction of the tourist center El Capomo. There is a barricade there where elements of the state police stop all traffic. They interrogate whoever tries to enter and register their name, place of origin, and reason for the visit. On the seashore, one of the police patrols on an ATV.

On the beach's federal zone, there still remain in the sand traces of the palapas of the small restaurants that were evicted last year. Not all have received compensation.

Ma.R.Camacho Pena, a resident of La Lima de Abajo, was the last one to leave. She exposed that, in response to her resistance to leaving the business that supported her family, her palapa was burned while some Canadian tourists were eating there.

There is a gate that is partly closed and under guard of the state police at the access to the beach of Las Cuevitas. The police mission is to take note of every vehicle that enters. A large sign warns that this is private property and, among many other conditions, access to the beach is restricted to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"They robbed us," says Juan Franco, representative of an ejido. FIBBA paid his ejido for the 304 hectars of their land in El Capomo that the state expropriated. This works out to 110,000 pesos per hectar, hardly 11 pesos per square meter.

Nevertheless, consistent with the signed receipts from the ejido, each one of the 303 ejido landowners received about 190,000 pesos.

Juan Franco agrees that each one of these payments was discounted somewhat to pay for about 25 hectars for the displaced campesinos whose land was expropriated in the zone of Las Cuevitas. But since there's no accounting for this money, they take the position the 25 hectars still belongs to the ejido.

Detective story paradise

In an improvised camp with palapas, two state police agents permanently guard the entrance to El Playon and block the passage of vehicles with large boulders.

Here one finds the polygon El Playon de Llano where, according to a registered document obtained by this reporter, FIBBA plans to build a beach club with an investment of 50 million pesos.

J. Torres Landa, president of the tennants' association of El Playon, also accuses FIBBA of harmful damage in the neighborhood of Paraiso Escondido caused by the demolition of hydraulic and sanitary infrastructure.

Until now, in various judicial proceedings, FIBBA has attempted to minimize what has occurred and, despite the fact the property is registered in its name, denies putting up any fences, putting guards in place, or conducting any demolition work.

Nevertheless, Torres Landa has secured a notary who would testify that Christian Cardona, the appropriate person in charge of the state police, has said that he was given orders by FIBBA.

In the intersection of Tonino, one early morning in December 2007, police dressed in black entered the house where Cesar O.Valle Robles lived with his wife and two little daughters. His house was ejido property inherited from his father. His brother Alejandro says that the agents had the family leave the house while they removed all the furnishings and took them to a public service truck. Thereupon, heavy equipment workers demolished the house.

The next day, Cesar, Alejandro, a nephew, and a brother in law, together with an attorney, went to see where the house had been. Elements of the state police arrested them and brought them to Tepic. They were freed 12 hours later through the intervention of Senator F.J. Castellon Fonseca.

Alejandro Valle indicates that the land in question comprises 16 hectars and that FIBBA claims it's part of the expropriated land of the La Penita de Jaltremba ejido. He adds "My father died in 1973 and we don't know that they ever paid him anything, and they certainly didn't pay us."

Up until now, the only project that has been initiated in the area is the residential tourist development Punta Raza, located on the beach with the same name. It has an area of 293 hectars apropriated from the La Penita de Jaltemba ejido and with an investment of around 118 million dollars.

The Punta Raza project is promoted by the business group C&C Capital, whose principal members are Hector Cardenas and Carlos Brockmann. Flavio Gomez accuses Punta Raza of taking over around 2.5 kilometers of a road constructed by the ejido in the federal zone.

Last October the Instituto de Derecho Ambiental A.C. presented a complaint before the state delegation of the Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente (national environmental agency known as Profepa).

The irregularities do not stop. In Chacala, FIBBA sold a polygon of 38 hectars to the business Promotora Chacala S.A. de C.V., headed up by Guadalajara businessman Jose Alvaro Martinez de la Pena. As a result of this transaction, chainlink fences were put into place on a road that has been used since colonial times and an extension of the main street of the town leading to two of the oldest hotels in the community.

In July 2008, the chainlink fence was installed and evictions took place by means of paying diverse amounts of indemnification to about 20 inhabitants and owners of small restaurants situated in front of the beach. As soon as they left, the structures were demolished with heavy equipment.

Leobardo Munoz, a fisherman who has lived more than 30 years on part of this ground, is unique in that he's still living there. He managed to persuade a judge not to allow him, his wife, his 8 children (two of whom are married), and their respective chidren to be evicted. He's been offered money several times but he refuses to take it. He's been warned that if he doesn't take it, he'll be evicted anyway without indemnification.

Currently, two private security guards control the passage of people and cars into the zone.

Bilingual jobs

While the beaches of Compostela remain semi-deserted, under police control, and the coastal populations resent the damage to the local economies caused by these measures, the governor paints a different picture. He sees an idyllic panorama whereby state citizens will not have to go to the U.S. to earn a living but instead will be able to thrive on the Nayarit coast. "They just have to learn English," he says.

According to official statistics, 105 million pesos were spent in just the last year alone in the promotion of the Nayarit Riviera. In December, Ney Gonzalez declared: "We aren't on sale. We want investors who will respect the environment, who will build low density, and who will offer quality employment. That's the golden rule."

Nevertheless, the results of the promotion of tourist development up until now have not been so encouraging.

In November 2008, the environmental organization Greenpeace denounced Nayarit as "the victim of predatory tourism." Through a press release, it said:

"The tourist destinations of Bahia de Banderas, Rincon de Guayabitos and San Blas, in Nayarit, present serious problems of contamination, irregular growth, a lack of basic services, an invasion of arroyos through irregular settlements, alterations of the habitat for flora and fauna, the burning of solid waste in open dumps, contamination of bodies of water and closed accesses to the sea."

Laura del Valle y Limes, president of the Allianza para la Proteccion y Desarrollo de la Costa de Chila, says that the state government's strategy of developing the beaches of Compostela "has been done in the style of 'slash and burn.' We haven't seen an inclusive process; the people have not been taken into account. On the contrary, the people in general have been seriously run over "

She opines that the arrival of the new investors into the tourist sector is a "new conquest, yet another process of colonization, in that things are being done through threats and force."

"The venture capitalists are constructing their developments over lands that once belonged to the campesinos. They have to be included in the process and not just as waiters or servants earning minimum wage. They need to be respected as businesspeople who live here and who deserve their own space and position that they earn," says Laura del Valle.

For his part, Pedro Alvarez Hormaeche, director of FIBBA until December 16th of last year and now the magistrate of the Nayarit Supreme Tribunal of Justice approves the actions of FIBBA and the state government with regard to some of the beaches like Punta Raza, Boca del Naranjo, and Chacala. They participated in negotiations with the ejidos and the backers of the tourist industry for the purpose of securing evictions which would be legally binding for the benefit of investors.

He denies that there was any pressure, threats, or intimidation against the people whose lands near the federal zone of the beaches were confiscated, saying that they took part in "free and open negotiations, respectful and voluntary" and "the agreements were negotiated and people were paid."

With respect to the non-conformity of the amounts that have been paid for the expropriated lands, he says that 21 campesinos from the ejido of La Penita de Jaltemba went to court. The rest together with those from Las Varas and El Capomo have already received complete financial settlement.

"It's a shame," he said in a telephone interview, "that some who received money from FIBBA or the government, now argue that they have been deprived or violated in their individual guarantees or in judicial certainty, but we can't keep people from saying these things to try to win some extra benefit."

He accuses the ejido representative Flavio Gomez, of El Monteon, and a "very small group of ejido representatives" of introducing "anxiety into the zone, this constant voice of uncertainty even though we have shown countless times that this view is not correct."

"The resistance was illegitimate, but also the police action was bad. In my judgment I feel it was a mistake. But I am not the chief of police nor the procurator. I would not want to be the judge (of this). I would not want to judge anyone," he concluded.

(Thanks to Emilia Robinson and Garrett Olney for the translation)


Laura said...

Emilia, thanks for the excellent translation.
We ask that all the inhabitants that are winter birds here and agree that tourist devolopment need not be the motive to exclude the local population (mexican tourists included) from their own beaches.
Please help by writing a note to present a different view to the authorities of sustainable tourist development We want to preserve the natural beauty, don't need to cut the jungle for golf courses, block access to other beaches, or squeeze the local people out!
It could state that public beach areas are part of a national right and that people who are fishermen need to be relocated in their own town.The family of Leobard, next to Mar de Jade has been offered such little money, he couldn't buy even buy a lot for his family of 12. The developer, Alvaro de la Peña, has 400,000 meters (40 hectars) and he refuses to relocate Leobardo in 3,000 meters of those 400,000.
send letters to:

Anonymous said...

Have the government authorities over his region ever heard of long term land leases. They could have leased these lands from those who rightfully owned them for fair rent over many generations. This would have been a win win for the owners and the developers.

Land rights with teeth are essential for anyone to have interest in owning property anywhere.

I guess the Karmic reaction to this is the economic recession which could hold the development of these lands off for a long long time.

Trippen in Mexico said...

Thank you for this information. Many of us have been wondering for months as to what is actually happening to the beaches in this area. It is at the very least some relief to read this report and to be able to stem all of the rumours. What is written is happening. The beaches are closed. If the right people could and would become involved, perhaps something could and would be done to change what appears, on the surface, to be "inevitable." The "inevitable" would be a shame!

verne said...

After encountering yet another chain link fence blocking a trail that previously went between two small beaches north of Los Ayala, I needed to find some information about this ongoing travesty along the Nayarit coast. We have witnessed the barricading of the Los Minitas Beach in Lo de Marcos, after the restaurant owners were evicted and their palapas burnt down. What sort of compensation they received, if any, I don't know.
What is obvious though, is that Mexicans in the area who used the beach extensively, on weekends and holidays can no longer do so. The tour buses that came from Guadalajara no can no longer bring Mexican vacationers to this spot. If this were part of some plan that would compensate the citizenry through the development of tourism and increased employment, it might be understandable on some level. Instead the beaches, are blocked and left fallow with no economic benefit. Las Minitas is in its second year of inaccessibility with not even the slightest indication of any development.
Further south we can see the La Tranquila debacle between Sayulita and Punta de Mita. The shell of a huge hotel, golf course and marina, sitting like a derelict grey carcass over Litibu beach. Now in the second season of abandonment, you can almost hear the rebar and concrete corroding away in the sun and salt air.
The back door expropriation of beachfront by making accessibility impossible, is nothing more than a devious method of circumventing Mexican law protecting maritime zonal property from privatization.
Perhaps if more Canadians and Americans were aware of the realities behind the Riviera Nayarit development, some pressure could be brought to bear by the threat of vacation and retirement money going elsewhere. Worth a shot.

Anonymous said...

One of the major developers in this region is Hector Cardenas of C&C Capital.

He contracted architects, land planners, designers and marketing people to develop the initial plan for Nahui, and then reneged on contractual commitments to them to the tune of over $2 million in fees after experiencing some personal financial setbacks.
The plan he is now marketing is virtually the same as what was developed for him originally.
He is very short of ethics and integrity.

Anonymous said...

I can' t but agree.I always wanted to write in my site something like that but I guess you' r faster.

Anonymous said...

I was seriously considering buying a home in Chacala Marina after renting one for a vacation. After reading this explanation, I will look elsewhere. These threads are old. Have the Ejidos or local residents made any progress on getting justice? And is Jose Alvaro Martinez de la Pena still running things there? Who is this guy anyway?