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New law: Mexico beaches aren’t private property

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A new law allows full public access to every beach in Mexico, affecting how private beach clubs operate.

Following several dustups over property owners blocking others from “their” beaches, a new law enacted Wednesday allows full public access to every beach in Mexico.

Land owners would be compensated for access, government officials said.

The law also establishes fines of up to $49,000 for hotels, restaurants or other property owners that defy the new law.

Mexicans have long been angered by private restaurants, clubs and hotels that erect barriers or employ guards to keep locals off “their” stretches of beach.

Federal law already states the public cannot be denied access to space 20 meters / 65 feet inland from the high tide line, but some businesses mark off exclusive areas for tables or beach chairs almost up to the water’s edge. Businesses that repeatedly break the law could lose their permits to operate on any part of the beach.

In February, two Mexican tourists were briefly arrested in Playa del Carmen after refusing to leave a stretch of sand that had been taken over by a local restaurant to set up tables for paying customers. The arrests sparked protests, and the local government later apologized.

The private “beach club” had been charging to use lounge chairs placed almost up to the water. It called the police when the couple refused to leave what the club called “a service aisle” on the sand, the Associated Press reported. Video posted on social media showed the couple being handcuffed and wrestled off the beach by police as other people objected, noting beach access is protected by law.

Public beaches were officially closed along much of the Riviera Maya under coronavirus contingencies. But tourists could still enjoy the sands through resorts or hotels that have direct beach access.

Another law demolishes buildings that block access to public beaches. Last year, a hotel building in Cancun was torn down by officials for doing just that.

“Mexican beaches are constitutionally and legally public, so there must be access roads so that any national or foreign visitor who wishes to enjoy them can do so,” said Sen. Mónica Fernández.

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