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U.S. watching Baja land dispute

By MIGUEL ANGEL GUTIERREZ

Reuters - 10/29/00

The United States government on Saturday said it was keeping a close eye on the safety of American retirees facing eviction from a posh beach resort in Baja California.

Some 200 residents, mostly U.S. retirees, were bracing for the arrival on Sunday of Mexican police armed with a court order evicting them from their homes at the Ensenada, B.C., tourist resort that comprises a hotel, 18 cabins and 23 houses.

"Our concern is for the human rights of U.S. citizens," U.S. Embassy spokesman Stephen Morisseau told Reuters in an interview. Morisseau said U.S. authorities also are concerned with the "physical safety" of the Americans.

U.S. and other retirees at the Baja Beach & Tennis Club are caught in the middle of a dispute over who has the rights to the land where the resort was built.

Residents bought the land from rural land owners who won proprietary rights to it under a 1988 agrarian redistribution program, even though the beachfront properties were owned by Prua Punta Estero SA., a private company.

Mexico's Supreme Court issued an eviction notice this week in favor of the company, giving the Agrarian Reform Secretariat until Wednesday to seize the 44 acres (18 hectares) of oceanfront property and return it to Prua Punta Estero, which bought the lands in 1970.

Local media reported the resort is valued at some 48 million dollars.