News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week October 20th - October 27th 2008
Mayor faces prison after criticising the King
The public prosecutor is investigating comments made at an event in April
By David Eade
The left-wing Izquierda Unida party mayor of Puerto Real, José Antonio Barroso, has no regrets about criticisms he has made about the Spanish monarch, Juan Carlos, despite the possibility of being sentenced to jail after he appears in court this week.
The Cádiz public prosecutor's office has decided to investigate after comments made by the mayor in Los Barrios in April, at an event to commemorate the II Republic. During a speech the outspoken Barroso cast aspersions on the King and his father, and accused the monarch of being corrupt because of some of his business associations.
José Antonio Barroso insists that he spoke "under the umbrella of the constitutional right to free expression which all Spanish nationals are supposed to have" and that he was expressing his political convictions.
The socialist mayor of Los Barrios, Alonso Rojas, has supported José Antonio Barroso. Rojas stated that while he does not agree with Barroso's views he supports the right of free speech and hence Barroso's right to say what he believes in.
Favour pay back
Apart from the fact that Barroso made the remarks in Rojas' town the Los Barrios mayor was also paying back his counterpart for his support earlier in the year. Rojas is appealing a court ruling barring him from office for not obeying a judicial order to pay a municipal bill for a water treatment plant - a debt that relates to a previous administration.
The Izquierda Unida mayor of Puerto Real went against his own party line by voicing his support for Rojas and saying he should not resign. This caused widespread anger in the IU in the province especially amongst party members in Los Barrios.
Spain demands place at international financial summit
World's eighth-largest economy should be represented, says government
By Dave Jamieson
The Spanish government is furious that it has seemingly been excluded from the forthcoming international summit on reforming the financial system, to be held on November 15 in the US. Behind the scenes diplomats are busy working to ensure Spain's inclusion.
The French president, Mr Sarkozy, who is also the current president of the EU, told Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero that he will lobby for Spain inclusion. Mr Sarkozy telephoned Sr Zapatero to voice his support once the news broke that Spain had been excluded.
The French president's office issued a statement saying: "He told him he was convinced Spain deserved a place at the forthcoming international finance summit, based on its weight in the world economy. The president will make the case for Spain's participation to the summit's American hosts."
Sr Zapatero has demanded that Spain be invited to the summit due to the size of its economy, the fourth largest in the EU and the eighth largest in the world based on GDP, and the relative strength of its banks. Indeed, Spain's Banco Santander is the biggest bank in the euro zone, and in the UK it owns Abbey, is buying Alliance & Leicester and is rescuing part of Bradford & Bingley.
Although Mr Sarkozy is supporting Spain's push for inclusion in the US summit, Spanish officials are furious at his failure to invite Spain to an impromptu European summit on the financial crisis in Paris earlier this month.
The US president, George Bush, announced on October 18 he would host the first in a proposed series of global summits on the financial crisis as the world grapples with the biggest economic debacle since the Great Depression. It is not known whether Spain's exclusion was an oversight or part of Mr Bush's apparent policy of snubbing the socialist Spanish government ever since it pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2004.
British couple convicted of beating good Samaritan
Man intervened in argument and suffered head wound and dislocated elbow
NEWS Staff Reporter
A British man and woman were convicted last week and sentenced to six months in prison for beating a man who attempted to intervene when he saw the couple fighting in the street.
Forty-year-old Benalmádena bar owner Marco Antonio Nieto was walking home along Avenida de Bonanza in the early morning hours of Saturday, October 18 when he saw the two Britons, both in their mid-20s, in a heated argument that he feared could grow violent. The court heard how he asked the woman, in English, if she was ok, but she began screaming at him, and then the man came at him. As he evaded the attack, the woman struck him in the forehead with some sort of blunt object. He fell to the ground and the couple continued to beat him.
The victim suffered a dislocated elbow, a number of bruises and a gash on the forehead that required six stitches.
A friend who helps Mr Nieto at his bar told Costa del Sol News: "He is not the kind of guy that looks for trouble. Just the opposite - he is always trying to prevent problems."
No jail time
Because their prison sentences are under two years, the Britons will not have to serve the jail time if they have no previous convictions. But they will have to pay compensation to the victim, as well as the court costs. The court set the compensation payment at 60 euros for each day of work missed by victim due to his injuries, and 40 euros per day for the rest of the time it takes him to fully heal.
Long lines at Comisaría can be avoided, say police
Appointments for foreign-resident paperwork available by phone
By Oliver McIntyre
Foreign residents have long complained of huge lines to perform basic documentation procedures at the Torremolinos National Police station, but the police department says the hours-long waits can be avoided.
Residents have reported to Costa del Sol News that they have to arrive at the police station as early as 5.30am to stand on line to get a number, which may not even be for that same day. Or worse, after waiting for hours, the numbers may actually run out before their turn, meaning yet another pre-dawn trip to the station to queue up once again.
Some residents say they attempted to phone ahead for an appointment but found it impossible to get through to the number they were dialling.
CDSN contacted the National Police for answers and was told that the correct procedure is to phone ahead for an appointment, and that the system of handing out of numbers at the station is meant only as a limited overflow measure to accommodate people who show up without an appointment.
The correct number to call for an appointment, or 'cita previa', is 952 378 473, and it operates weekdays from 9am to 1pm. CDSN called the number on two separate occasions and in both cases got through on the first or second attempt. The appointments were being given out for about two and a half weeks from the date of the call.
"Also, there is a volunteer interpreter service available to handle 'cita pevia' appointments in a number of languages," said a police spokesperson.
Similar in other towns
The police say the system used in Torremolinos is similar to that used at other Comisarías in the area, including Fuengirola. People should not seek shorter lines or faster service by going to a station outside of their district, as each station serves a determined area, said the spokesperson. The Torremolinos station serves the towns of Torremolinos and Benalmádena.
Petrol prices drop below one-euro mark at some stations
Filling up is cheapest it's been since June 2005
By Oliver McIntyre
For the first time in more than three years, petrol prices have dropped below the one-euro mark at some filling stations in Málaga province.
As of early this week, the cheapest price in the province for a litre of 95-octane petrol was 0.969 euros, to be found at Eroski stations in Antequera and Mijas and at the Fuengirola Esso station on the MA409 road. The last time that price could be found at local stations was in June 2005.
Other stations with 95-octane petrol for less than a euro a litre are Fuengirola's Finca Valdelecrín Esso station (0.979 euros); the Benalmádena Esso station (0.989 euros); Vélez-Málaga's Eroski station at the El Ingenio mall (0.989 euros); and the Cepsa station on Avenida Velázquez in Málaga city (0.998 euros).
Diesel down too
The price for diesel A has also dropped below a euro a litre at some stations for the first time since September of last year. The cheapest is at the Cepsa station in Almargen, at 0.977 euros.
Other stations where the price for diesel is under a euro are the Eroski stations in Antequera, Mijas and Vélez (0.989 euros at all three), and the Fuengirola Esso stations on the MA409 road (0.989 euros) and at Finca Valdelecrín (0.999 euros). There are no stations in Málaga city with diesel for under a euro a litre.
Over the moon
Transition Town comes to Estepona
The movement started in Ireland four years ago and now numbers 600 communities
By David Eade
The recent fuel crisis with shortages and price hikes is a sign of things to come. Environmentalists, such as James Machin in Estepona, have been warning for some time that we are living at a crucial stage in human history.
James explained: "Humanity is at the point of a quantum structural change. This change will commence when the worldwide demand for oil exceeds supply. This moment is imminent, due to the phenomenon known as 'Peak Oil'. Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline."
"The decline in oil availability will lead inevitably to a lower-energy, more localised future, in which we move from being consumers to being producer/consumers, where food, energy and other essentials are locally produced, local economies are strengthened, and we start to live within our means."
During the transition period there will be problems, and so to prepare for these times, 'Transition Towns' came into being. The movement started in Ireland four years ago and now numbers some 600 communities throughout Europe. On November 4, Spain's first Transition Town will be launched in Estepona.
The primary objective of Transition Communities is to develop an 'Energy Descent Strategy' for the community. To do that three questions will be asked:
How will we experience oil shortfall in our community?
What does our community have that will work for us in a future with less oil?
What can we do as a community to prepare and respond?
James said: "I'm promoting the event using my donkey cart, which I've modified temporarily to be pulled by the bike. I'm leaving it in various key places around Estepona with the press release and a poster displayed. I ended up at Tolones in Ciudad Real the other evening when I chatted to the kids. They love the idea of Transition Town coming to Estepona."
Fuengirola's old town hall set to become a hotel
Contract for conversion work has been awarded to a local company
By David Eade
The tendering process for the contract to convert Fuengirola's former town hall into a charming 'boutique-style' hotel has been finalised and work on the project will begin soon, said local officials last week.
The councillor for tourism, José Sánchez, announced that a local company, Proyectos Empresariales Fuengiroleños SL, had been awarded the contract.
The company will invest 2.8 million euros on transforming the historic building into a modern hotel, and in exchange gets a lease of 40 years to operate the hotel, paying rent of 1,700 euros a month to the town hall. After the 40-year period the hotel will revert to the town hall.
As part of the conditions for the contract, the company has three months to present the detailed plans for the conversion and the timetable for the works. This will then be studied by town hall officials and the proposals made public before the final go-ahead is given. An 18-month time period will then be allowed for the works to be completed.
The design must maintain the facade of the building and will incorporate more than 40 bedrooms. José Sanchéz promised that "the hotel will be an economic engine for the town, developing tourism in the centre, benefitting nearby businesses and boosting employment."
Local officials say the new hotel may also include a hotel school if the regional government agrees to include it in its network of such training facilities. The name chosen for the new establishment is the Hotel Casa Consistorial.
Estepona to review 30 town planning agreements
Mayor wants to suspend revision of new PGOU in order to adapt existing plan to the Andalucian land law
By David Eade
Town hall and regional government officials are reviewing 30 property development agreements signed in Estepona ahead of the adoption of the new local development plan (PGOU).
The mayor, David Valadez, explained that the intention of the administration is: "to suspend the revision of the PGOU to first adapt the 1994 existing plan to the requirements of the Andalucian land law (LOUA) and then to re-do the revision."
Sr Valadez issued the assurance that any money paid over for signed agreements after the LOUA came into force has been banked and will be held until after the revision has been carried out.
It is envisaged that the 1994 document will be adapted to include the provisions of the LOUA within a five month period. It will then be determined whether the planning agreements signed fall within the provisions of the new law and if they can proceed or not.
Luxury royal urbanisation
Meanwhile plans for a luxury urbanisation to be built by the Saudi Royal family will be discussed by the next council meeting even though the mayor has approved it by decree.
The luxury urbanisation for the Saudi royals does not have any elements that breech the requirements of the 1994 PGOU. It was to have been discussed by the royals' representatives on the day after the 'Astapa' town planning corruption arrests at the town hall.
Sr Valadez has described the pending development as very important for the municipality. He says that he has carried out lengthy negotiations with the representatives to ensure that the plans were within the law and had given his approval to ensure the economic solvency of the company's involved.
Nerja to welcome back Verano Azul
Spain's most-loved TV series returns
By David Jamieson
Verano Azul is set to return to the streets of Nerja. It was confirmed last week that a new series of the legendary Spanish television series is to be made in the town.
The original nineteen 50-minute episodes of Verano Azul, described as a nostalgic look at childhood, were filmed around Nerja over 18 months, from August 1979 to December 1980. The series was first screened on RTVE between 11 October 1981 and 14 February 1982, and its scheduling, during the siesta period on Sundays, guaranteed it an regular audience of around 20 million - a massive figure in today's multi-channel environment. The success of Verano Azul has never been equalled and, not surprisingly, it's the most repeated programme on Spanish television. It has also been a huge hit in most other Spanish speaking countries, and, dubbed, in many others besides.
There is no doubt that setting the series in Nerja gave the town a massive tourism boost, so its return is being widely welcomed. Last Thursday, the local Business Association (AEN) confirmed that discussions have been underway for some weeks with the production company Ida y Vuelta. AEN's recently appointed president Gabriel Broncano said that Nerja would receive the best promotion possible from the new series and local businesses are set to give the producers their full collaboration. Work is to start in two or three months with local casting sessions to find extras when filming around the town begins.
The continuing importance of the original series to Nerja is reflected in permanent reminders in the town. The star of the series, Antonio Ferrándiz, has a street named after him and he was awarded one of the town's greatest honours, "Hijo adoptivo de la ciudad de Nerja" - Nerja's Adopted Son. He died in October 2002. There's Verano Azul park nearby where a replica of Ferrándiz's fishing boat, La Dorada, still attracts bus loads of Spanish tourists and Nerja's tribute to the creator and director of Verano Azul, Antonio Mercero, is a metal reproduction of his canvas director's chair, emblazoned with his name, sited on Burriana Beach. In addition, the commercial potential of the series name was realised and adopted by one of the Nerja's most successful local businesses.
Franco prison demolished as critics round on Garzón
Proposal to convert Carabanchel into a Centre for Peace has failed
By Dave Jamieson
Work began last week on the demolition of Carabanchel prison in Madrid which held a large number of political prisoners during the Franco era. The project got underway as Judge Baltasar Garzón received a firm rebuke over his plans to investigate those who disappeared in the same period.
The machines moved into Carabanchel last Thursday, after the building had stood empty for a decade. Between construction in the early 40s by political prisoners and closure in 1998, it had become one of the largest prisons in Europe. El Pais wrote that its history comprises "thousands of pages filled with death, mutinies, disease, injustice, despair and escape attempts." Despite the grim story of a building where executions were carried out by garrotting, there was opposition to the demolition from former inmates, some local residents and the political party Izquierda Unida. However, their proposal to convert it into a Centre for Peace finally gave way to plans for 650 apartments and a hospital.
On the same day as the excavators moved in, Judge Garzón was taken to task by the public prosecutor over whether he was entitled to conduct his planned enquiry (CDSN last week). Javier Zaragosa says that a 1977 amnesty protects those who worked alongside Franco from prosecution, but the judge rejects this on the grounds that Hitler's supporters were tried under international law at Nuremburg. Sr Garzón has already named 34 suspected human rights criminals, all former generals or ministers of Franco, plus the dictator himself, and who are all dead.
Betancourt and Nadal receive Prince of Asturias awards
Canadian writer Margaret Atwood also honoured
By Dave Jamieson
The former Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and Spain's tennis champion Rafael Nadal have been named in this year's Prince of Asturias awards. At a ceremony held in Oviedo last Friday, they received one of Spain's most prestigious honours from Prince Felipe.
In her acceptance speech, Ms Betancourt urged Latin American countries to continue to fight against the trafficking of arms and drugs, which she said "feed" terrorism. Wearing a wooden rosary made while she was held captive in Colombia by FARC guerrillas, she said that winning this year's Concordia prize for promoting better understanding between people was the best day since she was freed in July. Since then, she has campaigned to publicise the plight of hundreds of other kidnap victims believed to be held in Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine.
Rafael Nadal called his award, "the most important they could give me." The first male tennis player to win a Prince of Asturias award made sure that the man from whom he took the world number-one ranking this summer also received recognition. "It's clear that Roger Federer deserves this award at least as much as I do," he said.
Eight Prince of Asturias prizes are awarded each year in categories covering the arts, scientific research, sports, letters and humanities. Among other recipients this year, the prize for communication and humanities went to the internet search engine Google, while the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Edible Woman, took the award for letters.