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Fines, prison possible for U.S. couple accused of illegally fencing off Yucatan beach

Law protecting public property allows judge to impose up to 12 years behind bars and US$5,500 fine

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A U.S. couple walled off their beach property in Santa Clara, Yucatan, until they were pressured to take it down. Photo: Yofis Magaña / Facebook

The Virginia couple that allegedly fenced off their beach property in Santa Clara, Yucatan, faces up to 12 years in prison and a 102,680-peso fine, Diario de Yucatan reported today.

A mesh “border wall,” as some media reports characterized it, held up by rocks and a series of posts, was illegal and blocked the general public from passing on a public right-of-way, said officials from Dzidzantún, the municipality in which Santa Clara is contained.

The state Secretariat of Sustainable Development of Yucatan ordered the removal of the fence and the federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) will sanction the property owners, the office told El Universal, a newspaper in Mexico City.

Reaction on social media was fierce, both by locals and expats, worried that the fence reflected poorly on other foreigners who have settled in Yucatan.

The mesh was removed after widespread complaints and criticism online, Diario reports. The posts apparently remain.

“Can someone can tell me how a foreigner grabs this kind of things on beaches in Yucatan. My ignorance is so great that I do not understand it. Can the sea be property? Where is the authority? I will say as Eugenio Dervez says .. Can someone explain to me ????? !!!!!,” wrote Yofis Magaña on his Facebook page.

The post was shared 401 times and generated 161 comments, most of them angry or defiant.

Under current law, unauthorized exploitation of public property can result in a prison sentence between two and 12 years and a fine between 300 and 1,000 times the daily minimum wage. The current daily minimum wage is at 102.68 pesos, so the fine would range from 30,804 to 102,680 pesos, equivalent of up to nearly US$5,500, Diario reports.

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