The type of news we really need…

This was recently published in the International Herald Tribune, which was a condensed version of what had appeared early in the Washington Post:

In Mexico, government claims tourist projects were built illegally

Maybe this sounds familiar: Government officials declare that several tourist-oriented developments were illegally built on protected land and threaten to demolish them.

The latest headline from Spain? Not this time. This report comes out of Mexico where soldiers recently moved to shut down five small hotels near the Mayan ruins of Tulum, on the so-called Riviera Maya south of Cancun.

Government officials say the hotel properties were built without permits on reserved federal land, according to an Associated Press report.

As noted in the story, title disputes in the Tulum area are not new. The stretch of coast south of the ruins is still something of a hippie retreat, with nude beaches and cheap cabanas for rent, far removed from the row of high-priced beach resorts closer to Cancun. Much of the land in the area is controlled by ejidos, collectives of landowners, which often makes it difficult to determine the actual owners.

However, in this case, the dispute is reportedly about the use of federal park land, not the legitimacy of the titles, the reports say. Nevertheless, the headlines are still bad news for the international real estate business in Mexico, which has long struggled with its image. Most of the horror stories of gringos losing their homes are more than 20 years old—and these days it’s possible to get title insurance and a mortgage on many Mexican properties— but the images linger. (Read more about buying in Mexico here.)

If the Tulum clash continues, it is sure to revive doubts about the trustworthiness of the country’s systems at a time when Mexico is making headlines for a brutal drug war and civil unrest in the south.

Yeah, great timing. Just when it seemed that the questions regarding how the trust system works (Fideicomisos) and how secure it is had become less relevant and moved to the back burner, looks like its being moved to the front burner again. These people bought property without title, without permits in a national park. What do you expect? And for those considering buying ejido, you are playing the same game these people were playing. Its a roll of the dice. You may win, but can you afford to lose?

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