Saturday, September 25

The public ownership of the old La Janda lagoon questions millionaire payments to the largest recipient of PAC funds

More than 50 years after the Supreme Court declared that a very important part of the La Janda lagoon is public domain, more than 6000 hectares of the old lagoon are still in the hands of private owners. Neither the Junta de Andalucía, with powers over intra-community basins since 2005, nor the General State Administration, which has just resolved an investigation file on these lands, have lifted a finger to recover La Janda and put it in value, despite that the recovery of public domain assets is not discretionary, but rather mandatory for the administrations.

“The actions of the Administrations have given rise, by application of the regulatory provisions of the large irrigable areas, that those lands in the public domain are today occupied in whole or in part by private farms”, admits a report from the Lawyers of the State to which this medium has had access, dated January 28 and incorporated into the file of patrimonial investigation recently closed by the General Directorate of State Assets.

Environmental groups have insisted for years that the land be recovered for public use by restoring the dried-up lagoon. It was these environmental groups who urged the investigation file before the DG of State Heritage, which establishes that the public domain of La Janda should be recovered by the Junta de Andalucía and, “ultimately”, by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Atmosphere.

The main farm: does not worry “the least”

The most significant of the private farms that occupy the land of the old lagoon is Las Lomas, a farm of 12,000 hectares (3,000 of them in the public domain, according to ecologists) exploited by Complejo Agrícola Las Lomas, SL The president of its board of directors is Ramón Mora-Figueroa.

Asked about its position in this administrative file, which has lasted more than three years and has reinforced the thesis that there are public domain lands integrated into a private exploitation, the Las Lomas property says it trusts “fully” in “the rule of law. and in the Legal Security of this country “.

“None of this worries the slightest since everything is perfectly clear both in the ministerial orders and in the decrees that allowed the drying out of the old lagoons, and of course, in the property registers,” say the owners of Las Lomas in a one-paragraph statement posted here. The company that operates the Las Lomas farm maintains that the Supreme Court ruling that set the demarcation confirms the legality of their occupation of the land and “the legality of the model followed in the drying works.” Andalucía sent a questionnaire of six questions to find out the position of the company, the title on which it bases its position or the importance of the lands in conflict for its agricultural activity. These questions have remained unanswered.

Doubts about CAP payments

Las Lomas is a historical property of the Mora-Figueroa family, linked at the time of the concession to the Franco dictatorship, and today related to the Domecqs and Miguel Arias-Cañete, former Minister of Agriculture and Environment and former European Commissioner. The Mora-Figueroa are one of the richest families in Andalusia. In 2019 Forbes attributed a net worth of 740 million euros.

For decades, these farms have received substantial funds from the Common Agricultural Policy (PAC), part of them for land that is in the public domain. In 2019 alone, Complejo Agrícola, the managed company that operates the Las Lomas farm, received more than two million euros of basic payment from the PAC in 2020. No one received more in all of Spain for this concept. In total, that year alone it received 4,460,000 euros of community public aid (4,441,000 in 2019), according to public data from the Spanish Agrarian Guarantee Fund.

An eventual possessory recovery of the land in the public domain could affect the perception of these payments and question payments received in the past. Las Lomas has not commented on this possibility.

An estate where the emeritus king hunted

Las Lomas is a country estate with tradition. It was founded in the 60s by José Ramón Mora Figueroa, married to Carmen Domecq, who gradually grouped the lands of his many cousins. His ambition was to drain the lagoon into a profitable farm. “In 1947, Las Lomas had only one tractor, and it was in poor condition,” says local historian Salustiano Gutiérrez, in the blog From the history of Casas Viejas. “Although the competition for new tractors and trucks was accused by everyone after World War II, Don José was able to use the relationship of a cousin of his father with the foundation of the Falange and his own ties with General Franco to accelerate importing the equipment he needed to develop the potential of his farm. ”

When it did, Las Lomas took off like a rocket. On the basis of agricultural production, the project was given a social tinge: the family built a town with 130 houses, a cinema, a supermarket, a bank, a Church and a school of the Sagrada Familia.

In addition, in these decades it has earned a notable prestige for several things. One of them, a remarkable capacity for agricultural innovation. Today it covers 12,000 hectares where grapefruits, avocados, broccoli, carrots or sweet potatoes are produced, processed and packaged, with an export orientation. This is the case of leeks: Las Lomas accounts for 90% of the English market, according to their managers in a report from Canal Sur.

The other hallmark of Las Lomas are the wild partridge and pheasant hunts that have been held there, with the concurrence of personalities such as Francisco Franco, Emilio Botín, Juan Abelló, the Marches and King Juan Carlos, according to last year the Vanitatis portal.

The rest of the land in question would belong to other large landowners, according to José Manuel López, spokesman for the Association of Friends of La Janda, who highlights that the entire land handover operation and desiccation works were a way of paying “the favors provided “to families affected by the regime. Although it is possible to superimpose the cadastre and demarcation plans, it is not so easy to know who the owners of the cadastral properties are.