A court of appeals in the Argentine city of Bariloche has upheld a 2013 ruling of a lower court ordering Rio Negro provincial authorities to open a road through the property of English tycoon Joe Lewis so access to Lago Escondido can be granted.
The lake is not anyone's property, it is public property. Access to the lake must be facilitated. The solution proposed by the owners of the field does not seem to be reasonable in any way, President Alberto Fernandez has said.
What we are talking about is to think about building at some point a road leading to the lake and the owner of the field must accept it because it is an easement of obligatory passage because there is no other way to get to the lake, he added.
Judges Marcela Pájaro and Jorge Serra voted on Monday in favor of upholding the previous decision opening to open the Tacuifí road - adjacent to National Route No. 40 - to achieve access to Lago Escondido, while Judge Federico Corsiglia dissented.
This is a sensitive case with enormous public repercussion, but at the same time it requires the lower courts to decipher and harmonize a series of resolutions of the Superior Court that left wide interpretative margins open, said Pájaro. At the same time, she held that the mountain trail is far from satisfying free access to the lake's shores.
In February of 2013, Judge Carlos Marcelo Cuello had given 90 days to the province of Río Negro to carry out the necessary works to guarantee transit to the lake through the road that starts in the El Foyel area and that was fenced by Lewis' property.
Cuello's order was appealed both by the province and by Lewis' Hidden Lake S.A. During the 1990s, the businessman bought an estancia and created a 12 thousand hectares area around the estate. After several complaints, he was forced to create a public road to the waterfront, but access is still very limited.
The magistrate's ruling found that lakes are public and that in order to access them, access must be allowed, even if it is private property. Lewis disregarded his decision and fought back.
The province's Superior Court of Justice tried to make the case federal.
In February of 2017, the March for the Sovereignty of Lago Escondido was staged in Río Negro, with people asking for a prompt solution against what they dubbed a fraudulent purchase. In the last mobilization, attendees were assaulted.