Costa del Sol News - 22nd February 2007

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Week 22nd February - 28th February 2007

 

Donkey slaughter outrage

Group calls for protest over killing of rare burros for gastronomic feast

By Dave Jamieson

NERJA’S DONKEY SANCTUARY HAS CALLED FOR PUBLIC PROTESTS OVER THE SLAUGHTER OF TWO RARE DONKEYS TO PROVIDE MEAT FOR 500 GUESTS AT A FEAST.
The Gastronomic Association in the town of Sort, about 130 kilometres northwest of Barcelona, is reported to have taken the action to promote donkey meat, which is said to be sweeter than horse meat.
The Donkey Sanctuary’s Jim Horne told Costa del Sol News that the incident seemed ironic in a region like Cataluña where cities such as Barcelona have banned bullfighting and pride themselves on their modern approach to animal welfare. In addition, he said, the whole region has adopted the Catalan donkey as its mascot.The native Catalan donkey is considered the best of its species in the world, known for its endurance and ability to travel long distances. It can go three days without water and is strong enough to carry loads of 100 kilograms. Adults can reach heights of 165 cm and weigh 500 kilograms, with long, upright ears and a dark brown coat except for white areas around the abdomen, legs and eyes.
The donkeys help protect forests from fires by eating the dry weeds and brush. They have occasionally been crossed with other species to take advantage of their exceptional qualities.
Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishing has taken action to conserve and protect the Catalan donkey. There was once a population of some 50,000 in Cataluña, but due to farming mechanisation and other factors there are now only a few hundred left.

CALL FOR ACTION
Mr Horne said, “We are urging anyone who is as horrified as we are to write to the local mayor in protest. His name is Sr. D. Agustí López, and the town hall’s address is Doctor Carles Pol i Aleu 13, 25560 Sort, Lérida, Cataluña. Please go out of your way to let him know what you think of this and also send a copy to your own local MEP saying this just has to stop.”The Nerja Donkey Sanctuary is lucky enough to have two of the rare Catalan donkeys. One, named Pinky, is about eight months old and was rescued just before being sold to a dealer who intended to sell him on either to Italy for food or to work on a Spanish fairground carousel.


Marbella mayors allegedly received gifts

Malaya corruption investigation continues

By David Eade

BOTH THE LAST MAYOR OF MARBELLA, MARISOL YAGÜE, AND HER PREDECESSOR, JULIÁN MUÑOZ, ARE ALLEGED TO HAVE RECEIVED GIFTS FROM PROPERTY DEVELOPERS IN EXCHANGE FOR GRANTING BUILDING LICENCES AND OTHER IMPORTANT FAVOURS.
Reports from the ongoing Malaya investigation into corruption at Marbella town hall claim that Sra Yagüe underwent two cosmetic surgery treatments in 2004 at a Catalan clinic, but did not pay the combined 9,715-euro cost of the procedures. It is alleged that the bills were paid by a property company through Mar-bella’s town planning advisor, Juan Antonio Roca, widely considered the mastermind behind the corruption scams.
Julián Muñoz and his ex-wife Maite Zaldívar are said to have received properties from another developer currently on bail in the Malaya case. The gifts included a house, given to Sr Muñoz in 1999, and the sale in 2000 of an apartment, two garages and a storeroom in Marbella’s Avenida Ricardo Soriano to Maite Zaldívar for the nominal sum of 3,006, when the properties were valued at 132,500 euros.

PRICE OF FREEDOM
Meanwhile, the Malaya corruption case has diverted attention from court action faced by Pedro Román, a former GIL councillor and right-hand man to ex-mayor Jesús Gil. He has been sentenced to two years in prison for tax fraud related to his company Marbella Sierra Blanca, but the sentence gives him the option of paying 1.4 million euros in back taxes and fees in order to avoid serving time. The prosecutor opposes the granting of this option for Sr Román, who is also involved in numerous other cases stemming from the GIL era at Marbella town hall.


Angry property owners launch website

Fed up with slow court process, residents take their case online

By David Eade

HOMEOWNERS AT LOS HIDALGOS IN MANILVA, FED UP AFTER LONG COURT DELAYS IN THEIR CASE AGAINST ALLEGED OVERBUILDING AND LAND-USE INFRACTIONS AT THE URBANISATION, HAVE DECIDED TO PUBLICISE THEIR CASE ON THE INTERNET.
Reg Winkworth, one of the owners, told the Costa del Sol News: “Our case has been before the courts for three years and even though we applied before all the current alleged corruption cases involving mayors on the Costa del Sol, nothing has happened. Obviously our case is a hot potato and the courts seem in no hurry to give a decision. Therefore, the community of owners has decided to put our case on the internet for all to see.”
The website (www.los hidalgos manilva.com), in both Spanish and English, explains that the urbanisation was planned to consist primarily of individual villas and three pueblos – Pueblo Camelot, Pueblo Hidalgos (now Balconies de Los Hidalgos) and Pueblo Plácido (now Los Hidalgos Golf).
However, the homeowners’ association argues that over the last four years a large number of apartments and some town-houses have been built in four zones designated for villas. They claim that this contravenes the Plan Parcial (the document outlining the types of property that can be built at Los Hidalgos), which was approved in 1986 by the regional government.

LAW SUIT
The homeowners’ association has legally challenged Manilva town hall and two former mayors of the town – Pedro Tirado and Emilio Lopez Berenguer – for allegedly granting ‘illegal’ building licences by personal decree for 16 townhouses and up to 600 apartments, as well as usurping a community ‘green zone’ for a development project. It is this case that is currently bogged down in the courts.The new website details the case and urges anybody who is considering buying a property at Los Hidalgos to contact the homeowners’ association president, Chris Warren (chriswarren@terra.es), before they put pen to paper.


'Exemplary Citizen' tax cut benefits

Council plans more future reductions

By Oliver McIntyre

BENALMÁDENA CURRENTLY HAS 10,000 RESIDENTS WHO ARE CONSIDERED ‘EXEMPLARY CITIZENS’, A DESIGNATION CREATED BY THE TOWN HALL A LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO THAT CARRIES ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES IN THE WAY OF REDUCED MUNICIPAL TAXES AND FEES.
Exemplary citizens are those who are registered (‘empadronado’) and have no outstanding municipal taxes or fees. They currently make up just 20 per cent of the town’s 50,000 registered residents, but local officials say the list is growing by about 200 people a month as word gets out about the available tax breaks.
Exemplary citizens automatically get a 23 per cent discount on their IBI real estate tax. An additional five per cent discount is available by paying the tax via a direct-payment order at the bank, bringing the total discount to 28 per cent.
Local business owners with exemplary-citizen status benefit further, with a 50 per cent discount on their commercial rubbish-collection fees. The town hall says that in coming years such discounts – of 20 per cent or more – will be extended to other municipal fees such as for membership in the sports department and participating in activities organised by the culture and youth departments.

DIPLOMAS
The town hall has begun issuing ‘diplomas’ to residents who qualify as exemplary citizens. The certificate thanks the recipient for his or her “invaluable contribution” to the town’s progress and development.


Third year of rising crime

By Oliver McIntyre

The crime rate in Málaga province increased for the third consecutive year in 2006, according to government statistics released this week. The total number of crimes recorded by the National Police and Guardia Civil was up nearly eight per cent, to 97,931. There were sharp increases in the number of sexual assaults, up 26 per cent, as well as home robberies and cases of domestic violence, both up 14 per cent. Robberies involving violence or intimidation jumped seven per cent.
Some crimes saw decreases in 2006, including murders, which were down 11 per cent, and large brawls, down 30 per cent. Also, law-enforcement forces did a better job of solving crimes, with a 33.5 per cent success rate, up 7.4 points from 2005. The number of arrests was up four per cent, to 14,725. Despite the eight per cent increase in the number of crimes committed, the crime rate – based on number of crimes per thousand inhabitants – rose just 1.4 per cent, to 65.5. In other words, a large portion of the increase in number of crimes was due to increased population as well as a proliferation of itinerant eastern European crime gangs, increased specialisation among criminals and the province’s improving economy, which makes it more attractive to criminals.


Fraudsters acquitted for truly incredible scam

By Oliver McIntyre

Two men have been acquitted of fraud charges after the provincial court ruled that their scam was so patently incredible that it couldn’t be considered a viable fraud. Among other things, the men tried to convince a Torremolinos car dealer to give them 30,000 euros in 500-euro notes because they had a magic liquid that would duplicate the notes. The would-be victim was first approached in September 2005 by Tom B.W., from Libya, who said he had 500,000 euros from his deceased father but that in order to avoid customs taxes the money had been dyed black before being brought into Spain. But he had a special liquid that when applied to the bills would turn them back to their original condition, he said. He even gave the car dealer a demonstration and gave him the resulting 50-euro note to check its authenticity. The car dealer took it to a bank, where he was warned of a possible scam.
Several days later the conman showed up with a Nigerian friend, Paul A.U., and the two men regaled the car salesman with their story of the note-duplicating potion. The car salesman called the police and the two men were arrested. A knapsack they were carrying at the time was found to contain bottles of liquid, packets of paper in the size of 50-euro notes and other items. The court found that while the men clearly intended to commit fraud, their method was “a ridiculous proposition, obviously detectible by anyone with a basic or inferior level of culture and intellect.” However, despite acquitting them of the fraud charges, the court ruled that they be deported due to their status as undocumented immigrants and their potential threat to society.


Government to scrap Río Grande dam

NEWS Staff Reporter

The Ministry of the Environment has agreed to seek alternatives to the planned small dam and pipeline system to divert water from the Río Grande to Málaga, a project that has been met with fierce opposition from Guadalhorce Valley officials and residents.
At a meeting last week, ministry representative Joan Navarro promised the mayors of Coín, Guaro and Cártama that at least the dam portion of the project will be completely scrapped and removed from the National Hydrologic Plan. He said that other options for ensuring water supply to both the Guadalhorce Valley and Málaga are being studied and that a new plan will be presented within a month. No project will move forward without “the consensus of all those involved,” he said.The ministry’s promise for an alternative proposal comes following a string of protests against the Río Grande project. Opponents say it would be an environmental disaster for the river and the valley and that the pipeline would directly impact 500 property owners. Local residents and environmental groups as well as the town halls of numerous Guadalhorce towns have joined together to stage several protests in Coín and Málaga city in recent months.


Nerja swimming pool open this month

By Dave Jamieson

Nerja’s new sporting facilities are expected to open before the end of the month. The final touches are now being put to the 2.9-million-euro construction project which began in 2003.
The new building includes an indoor sports arena for volleyball, basketball and indoor football with tiered seating from about 600 spectators as well as a 25-metre heated, indoor swimming pool. However, the project to build a complex next to the town’s sports stadium has had a chequered history.
A ceremony to lay the foundation stone was postponed twice, once because someone forgot to send out the invitations, and work was paralysed on the project during the summer of 2004 when a row broke out between Nerja town hall and the Junta de Andalucía. Nerja sports councillor, Rafael Rivas, said that the low quality of the materials was putting the construction workers at risk, while the regional government stopped work because of the presence of a high-tension power line above the site claiming that Nerja should have had it moved. Then last October, Councillor Rivas complained about the lining of the pool and the floor, “which are in a poor state and have to be re-laid,” adding the town hall would not accept delivery of the new facility until it was in a perfect state.However, all problems appear to have been resolved and work has been continuing on the final stages of the project. This includes completion of access roads to the new complex which is adjacent to the López Cuenca sports stadium to the east of the town centre.


Ronda golf development sent

By David Eade

State public prosecutor, Cándido Conde Pumpido, has this week sent documentation on the Ronda Los Merinos development to the environment and town planning prosecutor together with a request from the regional government that the project be paralysed.
The prosecutor acted after the IU-LV-CA regional MP for Málaga, Antonio Romero sent him a report in which it is alleged that the project adversely affects the local environment, a zone protected under the UNESCO Biosphere and that it would also harm the area’s aquifers.
According to the regional government the current plans that would see 800 homes, two golf courses and a five-star hotel built at Los Merinos do not correspond with the project that was presented and subsequently approved. The Andalucian authority is asking for the development to be paralysed until the plans have been revised and any discrepancies resolved. It says it will then let the project proceed “if the resulting plans are viable.”The chief objection raised by the regional government is that Los Merinos development does not have its own water supply. Instead it is relying on drawing on resources that are designated for Ronda and the 10,000 residents in the area. This same objection has been raised by local residents, town halls and environmental groups although Ronda town hall has stood firm, so far, in backing the scheme.


Motorway to La Herradura opens next week

The 140-million-euro project has taken seven lives

By Dave Jamieson

THE NEW STRETCH OF THE COASTAL MOTORWAY EAST OF NERJA WILL OPEN NEXT WEEK WHEN THE MINISTER OF DEVELOPMENT, MAGDALENA ÁLVAREZ, OFFICIALLY INAUGURATES THE 9.6 KILOMETRES OF AUTOVÍA WHICH WILL CARRY TRAFFIC FROM THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA INTO NEIGHBOURING GRANADA.
The motorway, which has taken twice as long to construct as was expected, was opened in April 2002, when the then Development Minister, Francisco Álvarez Cascos laid the foundation stone of the 102- million-euro project, expecting vehicles to be using the road in 30 months. Now, after five years the total cost has risen to 140 million euros with the problems of difficult terrain blamed for delays and added expense. A third of its length is accounted for by three tunnels as well as four high viaducts which, although having been a civil engineering nightmare, may afford spectacular views to drivers and their passengers.
The construction took the lives of seven workers. In September 2004, an Almería man died and three others were injured when a girder fell onto them as they worked on one of the tunnels, while in November 2005 six men died when a 20-ton section of one of the viaducts fell 80 metres to the ground. Three others were injured and work was suspended while enquiries were held into the cause of the accident. In another incident during construction, a toddler escaped injury when rock-blasting near Maro created a “rain of stones” with one crashing through the window of his room.

CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES
Work on almost all of the remainder of the 81-kilometre autovía planned to run from Nerja to Adra is underway. Once completed, it will be possible to drive on motorway-class roads from Gibraltar to north-east Spain and on into France and the rest of Europe.


Eight thousand in protest against violence

Incident sparked by parent’s attack on teacher

By David Eade

THOUSANDS OF TEACHERS, PARENTS AND PUPILS HAVE TAKEN PART IN A DEMONSTRATION TO PROTEST AT VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR IN SCHOOLS.
Figures issued by the police indicate that 5,500 people participated in the street march in Jerez, although the organisers claim that the true figure was nearer 8,500.
The incident which sparked this protest occurred on January 31, when a girl’s parent attacked a teacher at Jerez’s Andrés de Ribera school. Teaching staff from all over the province, fed up with a continuously worsening situation, decided to join the demonstration to express their support for their injured colleague and to demand an end to violence. One of the teachers present said “We are completely defenceless at work. We are protesting not only to show our support but to demand the right to better security in our jobs, because what happened to this teacher could happen to any one of us.”

MAJOR PARTICIPATION
Eighty-five per cent of teaching staff in Cádiz province are believed to have taken part in the protest, either in Jerez or in simultaneous demonstrations held in Cádiz city, Algeciras and La Línea de la Concepción.


On 'turtle' pond

Clean-up hauls 231 abandoned pets out of park pond

By Oliver McIntyre

AN ASTOUNDING 231 TURTLES OF EIGHT DIFFERENT SPECIES WERE PULLED FROM THE WATER DURING A BIANNUAL POND CLEANING OPERATION LAST WEEK IN BENALMADENA’S PARQUE DE LA PALOMA.
It is the first time the growing turtle population has been addressed at the park. The presence of the turtles is due exclusively to pet owners setting them free at the park pond, which has never been stocked with them, say town hall officials.
While many park-goers may enjoy seeing the turtles swimming or basking in the sun, the vast majority of the animals are not welcome additions to the pond’s ecosystem, say experts. More than 150 of the recovered turtles were of an American species known as red-eared slider, and most of the rest were of other non-native species. “These turtles pose a great risk for local ecosystems because they attack the native fauna and in some cases carry diseases that local specimens are unprepared for,” said David Garvayo, president of Asociación Mundo y Natur-aleza, which carried out the clean-up at the pond.
On a more positive note, 17 of the turtles found at the pond were of a threatened native species, the Spanish turtle (Mauremys leprosa), and it is believed they are reproducing at the park. The town’s Parks and Gardens Department says there are plans to create a breeding facility at the park with the idea of releasing hatchlings into their natural habitat in the wild. The pond at Parque de la Paloma was originally stocked with only carp but, as with the turtles, over the years numerous other species have been spontaneously intro-duced. Perhaps the most surprising is a school of piranhas, which Parks and Gardens Department’s José María López says are “not at all aggressive” and serve a purpose as carrion-eating scavengers.


GPS study highlights dangers for drivers

Some critics want law to ban units

By Dave Jamieson

A STUDY BY A MOTOR INSURANCE FIRM HAS LED TO SUGGESTIONS THAT USING GPS (GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS) WHILE DRIVING SHOULD BE ILLEGAL, AND EVEN THAT THEY SHOULD PROHIBITED FROM USE IN CARS.
The company Mapfre was investigating statistics which show that almost 40 per cent of road accidents in 2006 involved an element of driver distraction, a figure which has risen dramatically over the last 15 years. They were also concerned that GPS units have become one of the most popular Christmas gifts for motorists.
To evaluate the dangers, seven men and seven women drivers were each asked to drive round an unknown 20 kilometre route using GPS. One jumped a red light, two ignored “Stop” signs and four tried to drive up one-way streets. In addition, their cars braked suddenly and for no reason, turns were made without signalling and vehicles were manoeuvred dangerously between traffic lanes.
Now the director general of the Traffic Department, Pere Navarro, has started a debate on whether the use of GPS while driving should become an offence. He said that, already, if it can be shown that a driver was distracted by pressing the buttons on a GPS mounted in his vehicle, the Guardia Civil could interpret that as a driving offence. However, he added that his department was undertaking a study during which officers would note such incidents in an effort to assess the extent of the problem. Other critics of GPS have even gone so far as to suggest that the units should be banned from being installed in a vehicle where the screen is visible to the driver.Spain’s driving organisations are unsurprised by the news and say they have had concerns for some time about the use of GPS while on the move. The Mapfre study recommends choosing a GPS which is voice-activated with an anti-reflective screen and ensuring familiarity with its operation before use. It says the system should never be operated manually while driving and, if the GPS unit recommends a drastic change of route, the driver should stop and review the situation instead of reacting hastily and possibly dangerously.