Friday, June 14, 2024

Judge reportedly rules against decree that closed Huatulco golf site

Businessman Ricardo Salinas said Monday that a court had handed down a ruling against the closure of a golf course in coastal Oaxaca that was declared a national park by presidential decree earlier this year.

In a post to the X social media platform, the billionaire owner of Banco Azteca, TV Azteca and other companies said that he had woken up to the news of a “definitive suspension” against the closure of the Las Parotas Golf Club in Huatulco, which his Grupo Salinas conglomerate formerly operated.

Billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego
Ricardo Salinas Pliego, the billionaire behind Banco Azteca and TV Azteca, is an outspoken critic of President López Obrador, who in turn says that the tourism agency Fonatur never benefited from leasing the golf course to Salinas. (JGTorresH/Wikimedia Commons)

However, the Environment Ministry (Semarnat) said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that the ruling doesn’t allow the golf course in Huatulco to reopen.

Salinas didn’t provide any documentation to back up his announcement about the court order. The La Jornada newspaper reported Tuesday that a “public version” of the ruling from a Oaxaca-based judge hadn’t been announced.

The golf course was declared a national park by presidential decree on Feb. 26, and the National Guard secured the property in mid-March.

Semarnat said that the ruling issued by the judge in Oaxaca is aimed at “keeping the ecosystem alive” and that it “doesn’t contravene what is established in the decree” — which officially created the Tangolunda National Park and states that playing golf on the property is prohibited, as are a range of other activities, including fishing, agriculture, logging and mining.

The decree’s issuance and the National Guard’s entry to the property came 12 years after the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur) granted Grupo Salinas a concession to operate a golf course on a 110-hectare Huatulco plot of land. The concession reportedly expired in 2022, although Salinas has claimed that it was extended until 2027.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said last month that the property’s leasing to Grupo Salinas generated no benefits for Fonatur, the original developer of Huatulco as a “planned tourism project” similar to Cancún.

7th hole at La Parota Golf Course in Huatulco, Mexico
The course, redesigned by renowned Mexican golf architect Agustín Pizá when Salinas took possession, has been criticized in some quarters for its water usage. (Parota Golf Club)

In his post to X, Salinas called on Interior Minister Luisa María Alcalde to send people “quickly” to remove “closed signs” from the golf course. He also said he would have to invest “double” to “rescue” the golf course, which appears unlikely to be possible based on the information in Semarnat’s statement.

In another post on Monday, Salinas said that he planned to host a golf tournament at the Las Parotas Golf Club on Oct. 2.

Last Saturday, he posted photos to X that purported to show that the golf course’s fairways and greens had quickly dried up after the National Guard took possession of it.

“The government rots, dries up, kills, destroys, burns, steals … and corrupts everything it touches,” wrote Salinas, whose companies allegedly owe billions in unpaid taxes to the government.

“… Go out and vote on June 2 and decide if you want a Mexico full of life or one that is dried up and full of hate,” said the outspoken critic of López Obrador and his government.

Semarnat said Tuesday that the quantity of water used to maintain the golf course — presumably on an annual basis — was equivalent to “the consumption of all residents of Oaxaca during 10 days,” or the consumption by Huatulco’s population during a period of more than two years.

At a time of low water levels, the water used to maintain the golf course “could contribute to covering” Oaxaca residents’ need for “the vital liquid,” the ministry said.

“In addition, the wells used don’t have the required authorizations nor the necessary concessions to make use of the water to water the grass, and therefore their use is illegal,” Semarnat added.

With reports from El Universal and La Jornada 

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