Residents and public officials in Nayarit involved in protesting the construction of a condominium complex on federally protected coastline have had their personal bank accounts frozen for over three months thanks to a lawsuit brought by the developer.
Despite holding protests as far back as 2018, opponents of Punta Paraíso, a luxury development in San Francisco — San Pancho, to locals — have watched Lemmus Real Estate continue with the project with no apparent regulation from the federal government.
They claim that the company has illegally built on almost 1,200 square meters of the Federal Zone, or Zofemat, a 20-meter wide strip of coastline meant to be protected by the federal environmental protection agency Profepa.
“We met with [President López Obrador] two times, we spoke with his super-delegate [in Nayarit], … we spoke with [Nayarit Governor Antonio Echevarría García] … and of course we protested openly,” said local activist Erik Saracho in an interview with Mexico News Daily.
After more than two years of fighting the development and seeing their demands that the law be applied in San Pancho go unheeded by any regulatory agency, Saracho and others involved in the opposition found themselves in a difficult situation at the end of last year.
In late November, he and five other protesters woke to find that they had no access to their personal bank accounts. Without any official notice from a governmental or legal entity, the activists were told by their banks that their accounts had been frozen due to a lawsuit.
Carlos Lemus of Lemmus Real Estate told a press conference that same month that the company had sued the activists for defamation, claiming that their actions had cost Lemmus Real Estate over 12 million pesos (US $629,000).
“They froze our accounts by means that we consider to be corrupt,” said Ismael Duñalds, a state lawmaker from Bahía de Banderas, the municipality in which San Pancho is located.
“We were never notified. … We were not part of a case in which we could have defended ourselves. … We only found out when our banks told us that our accounts were frozen and there was nothing we could do because of the judge’s ruling,” he said.
“If that is the case, … then [freezing their accounts] would be illegal,” said Mexico City-based environmental attorney Raziel Villegas, who is not associated with the case. The lawyers representing Duñalds and the other activists were unable to comment, as it is still in litigation.
He said that the defendants should have known they were being sued and been given the chance to defend themselves in court before such actions were taken.
The activists appear to be up against a formidable opponent with no apparent accountability. One said that Lemus personally threatened to put her in jail if she did not stop protesting.
When contacted by Mexico News Daily, Lemus said that the claims of frozen bank accounts were “false statements” and declined to comment further.
Judge Manuel Edgardo Servín Orozco of the Fourth Civil Court of Jalisco, who issued the ruling, likewise turned down requests for comment, as did Profepa.
Duñalds and the others know that they are up against a formidable opponent — Saracho himself called their case a “long shot” — but they haven’t lost hope.
“If we don’t [protest Punta Paraíso], it will set a precedent for companies to do what they want with the rest of the beach in San Pancho,” he said.
Local painter and landlady Elvía García, one of the six whose accounts have been frozen, said that she and the others are “very positive” and continue to fight, because “the situation puts the rest of the beach at risk.”
“We are here, and we’re going to see this through to the end,” she said.
Source: Mexico News Daily
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