A community landowner points out the disputed area. A community landowner points out the disputed area.

Banderas landowners continue their fight

60-year battle for land that now houses gated communities and shopping centers

Community landowners in Bahía de Banderas, Nayarit, have been fighting for 60 years for the return of what they say is their land, now home to gated communities, shopping centers and a bottling plant.

The people of the ejido of Rancho de los Llanitos have accused several government officials of denying their rights and in the handling of their case, which revolves around the ownership of at least 150 hectares valued at 500 million pesos (US $23.2 million).

In light of suspicions of corruption, the ejidatarios are now demanding the removal of two magistrates and two federal judges, which has triggered an investigation by the Attorney General’s office.

The first legal battle won by the people of Los Llanitos dates back to 1968. After 11 years of litigation they obtained three rulings in their favor that granted them 2,700 hectares.

But the land was never turned over to them. The community landowners claim the governor at the time, Julián Gascón Mercado, had interests in the land, which is located near Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, which was then starting to develop as a tourism destination.

Almost a quarter-century later, a new generation of ejidatarios resumed the legal battle after a law was modified in 1992, granting more protection to community-owned land.

Their case was rejected once more, this time under the argument that no farms existed in the disputed area.

An injunction, or amparo, was filed against that decision, which was resolved in the year 2000. Further analysis of the case concluded that 4,077 hectares were in contention.

Of that land, an agrarian court decided in 2001 to give just 279 hectares to the ejido for residential development, a decision that was reversed in 2004 and then reinstated once again with another ruling.

Since 2006, the people of Los Llanitos have claimed that magistrate Ramón Medina de la Torre has acted wrongly against their interests and rights, favoring private landowners instead.

The community landowners have reported harassment and threats against them and their lawyers.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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