News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week May 22nd to May 28th 2003.
EXPATS CHASE LOCAL VOTES
But most foreign residents won't vote in municipal elections
By Dave Jamieson and Oliver McIntyre
WHEN VOTERS GO TO THE POLLS IN THIS SUNDAY'S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS, THEY COULD LAUNCH THE SPANISH POLITICAL CAREERS OF CERTAIN BRITONS, SCANDINAVIANS AND OTHER EUROPEAN FOREIGN RESIDENTS RUNNING AS LOCAL CANDIDATES.
Fifty foreign residents are included on the candidate lists of political parties in towns throughout the province. Britons are the most-represented, with 22 candidates on the lists of four different political parties (PP, PA, PSOE and Los Verdes) in 19 Málaga towns. In coastal towns like Nerja, Torremolinos and Estepona and in smaller inland towns like Cómpeta and Álora, foreign residents figure among this Sunday's town hall hopefuls.
None of the foreigners are in the top spot of their party's candidate list - the mayoral position - but the candidates hope that their presence on the lists will help spark more political interest among the foreign-resident community. And they believe they are uniquely positioned to help their parties reach out to and address the concerns of the ever-growing foreign-resident population.
LOW VOTER TURNOUT
In this year's elections, it appears that the majority of foreign residents on the Costa del Sol will not be voting. Out of 77,919 EU and Norwegian citizens entitled to vote throughout the province of Málaga, only 17,956 - 23 per cent - have registered to exercise their democratic rights.
The President of the Federation of Foreigners Associations on the Costa del Sol, Ricardo Sánchez Bocanegra, has expressed his frustration with the trend, describing the figures as 'ridiculous'. He complained that those who express a lack of interest in local politics are often the same people who criticise their municipalities for lack of police, dirty sea water and postal delays. He could not say if any nationality was more motivated to vote than another, although the electoral rolls show Britons as the most numerous foreigners, followed by Germans, Finns, French and Italians.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Investigations (CIS) said last week that it expects 60 per cent of all eligible residents - Spanish and foreign - will vote, with a further 21.1 per cent 'likely' to visit polling stations on Sunday. However, general voter apathy was also evident in the CIS figures, which showed 44.5 per cent of Málaga citizens expressing little interest in municipal elections, and 24.5 per cent claiming none at all.
NINE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DROWNED OFF TANGIERS
Twenty survivors rescued; additional groups continue to arrive
By David Eade
MOROCCAN POLICE ANNOUNCED THAT NINE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DIED WHEN THEIR LAUNCH SANK IN THE SEAS CLOSE TO TANGIERS.
The victims, five men and four women, all Moroccan, were attempting to cross the Straits of Gibraltar to land at Tarifa. The launch capsized off the beach of Sid Kacem. Officials said that another 20 Moroccans travelling in the boat were rescued by members of the local civil defence force. Tangiers is a common setting-off point for illegal immigrants due to its close proximity to the beaches along the coast between Algeciras and Tarifa. In recent months the Moroccan police have intensified operations against illegal immigration.
Nonetheless, the wave of illegal immigrants continues, with another 33 arriving on the beaches of Tarifa just days after the drowning tragedy. The group's Zodiac high-speed launch was spotted by the Guardia Civil's vigilance system (SIVE) four miles off the Tarifa coast. The two owners of the vessel, both North Africans, were arrested. The illegal immigrants received treatment from the Red Cross for hypothermia and shock before being moved to the immigrant centre at Isla de las Palomas pending their return to their countries of origin.
A day later 53 illegal immigrants survived the crossing and were attended to by soldiers, Guardia Civil officers and Red Cross personnel as they landed at Tarifa's Punta Paloma beach. One of the immigrants was of Asian origin and was taken to hospital in case he showed any sign of having the SARS virus. Guardia Civil officers attending the scene wore masks as a precautionary measure.
COUPLE HELD CAPTIVE FOR NINE HOURS BY ROBBERS
Thieves raid Marbella home and jewellery shop
By David Eade
Sixty-two-year-old jeweller José Castillejo and his wife, Antonia Alcaide, were held captive by thieves for nine hours at their home in Marbella. A group of six men, all believed to be from Eastern Europe, attacked the married couple in their home at 22.30 and tied them by hand and foot.
Sr Castillejo said the gang entered his property via the garden gate and surprised his wife and himself as they sat on the sofa watching television. He added: "There were six young men, tall and very strong. They were wearing black hoods and white gloves."
According to police reports, the robbers stole numerous pieces of jewellery plus 3,000 euros in cash they found the couple's home. However, as they entered Castillejo's jewellery shop, Belgo Suisse, the alarm sounded, forcing them to flee with less booty than they had intended.
Eventually, at 06.55, Antonia Alcaide managed to free herself. But as she went to raise the alarm, she saw that one of the men was still in her garden, and he made a gesture to her indicating he would cut her throat. Nonetheless, she phoned the police, who are now searching for the gang members.
LA ARAÑA AUTOVÍA BYPASS COMPLETED
Opening ceremony threatened by election politics
By Dave Jamieson
DRIVING EAST FROM MÁLAGA HAS TAKEN ON A NEW ATTRACTION WITH THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE LATEST STRETCH OF MOTORWAY. THE DEVELOPMENT MINISTER, FRANCISCO ALVAREZ CASCOS, CUT THE INAUGURAL RIBBON ON THE NEW ROAD LAST THURSDAY, SOME FIVE MONTHS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.
However, the opening ceremony for the new section of Málaga's ring road at Rincón de la Victoria was under threat of postponement until after Sunday's municipal elections. Two days before the event, a complaint was received that it amounted to an electoral act, and as such should be postponed until after polling day.
PSOE, the opposition party in Málaga, whose complaint triggered the debate, said the Partido Popular would benefit unfairly from the press coverage. The ceremony went ahead, although it was boycotted by representatives from the PSOE and IU. Minister Cascos would not comment on the political arguments surrounding the event, saying it constituted "a discussion which does not concern me."
The road project - 6.3 kilometres of new autovía plus improvements to four kilometres of the bypass around Rincón de la Victoria - has taken 19 months and over 47 million euros. It diverts heavy traffic away from a dangerous stretch of the motorway built in 1992, which runs between the cement factory and the coast, and then around the dangerous curve at La Araña, a route decided by economic factors at the time the road was originally built. The very sharp bend at La Araña quickly became one of the province's accident black spots.
The new road has been welcomed in Rincón de la Victoria, whose mayor says that it gives the town a great opportunity to revitalise its commercial activities. José María Gómez said his municipality should be prepared for a sharp increase in its number of visitors. The Transport Federation of Málaga's secretary general, Susana Rojas, said that the change would solve many problems and reduce the risk of accidents for everyone, especially for lorry drivers. Experts also expect to see a revaluation of properties in the affected area. Málaga Town Hall said that, although the urbanisation of the land between the old and new roads is not presently planned, this could well change in the future.
Apart from an easier drive into and out of Málaga from the east, motorists will be relieved to see the end of the construction phase, which has resulted in often severe delays over the last year and a half.
JUNTA SAVES STARVING BULLS IN COÍN
Neighbours complain of cruelty and stench
By Oliver McIntyre
In a barren paddock near the Río Grande river in Coín, around 50 bulls have been slowly starving to death, deprived of even the most rudimentary care. Neighbours of the farm complained to the Guardia Civil about the neglect of the animals, which has already resulted in some of the bulls dying and others escaping their fenced area to seek food on their own. Junta de Andalucía agricultural agents investigated the situation and, working with a Coín judge, came to an agreement that will save the bulls by handing them over to another ranch.
One neighbour of the farm, Englishwoman Jacqueline Ashbee, told CDSN that the bulls started dying as early as last September. "They just let them rot," she said. "And in the height of summer - oh, the stench." She called the treatment of the bulls cruel, and said that even if the authorities had to kill the bulls, which was what the Junta at first reported it might do, "it would be fairer for them to be slaughtered than to starve to death out there."
Another neighbour, Rafael Moncayo, told CDSN that he recently had to pass right by one of the escaped bulls on the dirt road that leads to his orange orchard. "If I hadn't been inside my car, I wouldn't have been able to go by," said Sr Moncayo, who expressed concern for both the safety of local residents and what he called the shameful mistreatment of the animals.
The long-term neglect of the bulls is said to be due to a family dispute that resulted in the owner of the bulls being denied permission to enter the farm. The agreement reached by the Junta de Andalucia leaves the property in the current owner's hands, but transfers the bulls to a different location.
NEW RIGHT TO SECOND OPINION IN ANDALUCÍA HOSPITALS
Law guarantees 30-day turnaround
By Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA LAST WEEK APPROVED A NEW LAW THAT GUARANTEES PATIENTS IN THE REGIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM THE RIGHT TO A FREE SECOND OPINION IN CASES INVOLVING THE DIAGNOSIS OR TREATMENT OF SERIOUS ILLNESSES.
Andalucía is the first region in the country to establish such a right to a second opinion, which the new law states will be provided within 30 days of the request. According to the law, which goes into effect in July, the right to a second opinion applies to patients who have been diagnosed with, or are to receive treatment for, illnesses considered serious, terminal, or detrimental to the patient's quality of life. Examples include malignant tumours, degenerative neurological diseases, advanced coronary conditions, and rare illnesses, which are defined as those that occur in less than five per 10,000 people.
Upon the request for a second opinion, a specialist in the appropriate field will review the tests and analyses already performed and give an opinion. If that opinion differs from the original one, the case will be passed on to a panel of experts, which will give its final opinion within a period of 30 days. Along with the second opinion, the patient will receive a list of three health centres where the proposed treatments are available. At that stage, it is up to the patient to decide which opinion to accept and how to proceed.
According to Málaga's Health delegate, José Luis Marcos, the new law is a big step forward, ensuring better quality and reliability in diagnostics and complex medical treatments. "The people of Andalucía can be certain that this measure is of great benefit to them," he said.
Nonetheless, at least one group, the consumer advocate Al-Andalus, says the new law is too little too late. It says that second opinions should have already been available based on the 1998 Public Health Law, and that, in fact, they should be available to all patients, not just those diagnosed with the most serious of illnesses.
ON THE TRAIL TO HELL - 101 KMS IN 24 HOURS
By Laura Mathews
Cyclist Jose Marquez Granados only needed four hours and 26 minutes to cover 120 kilometres of the mountainous countryside around Ronda last Saturday, May 17, as he crossed the finish line ahead of 4,800 other participants in the eighth edition of this 'Super Marathon'. Contestants have up to 24 hours to complete the course, 120 kilometres for cyclists and 101 kilometres for those on foot. The first runner to complete the course, which wended its way through six villages, was Alvarez Sainz, eight hours and 47 minutes after the starting gun went off. However, for the majority of people who set off under a baking sun and walked throughout the night, this race wasn't about winning, it was about taking part, about endurance and completing the course.
Captain David Edwards from the Royal Welch Fusiliers completed the race in 2002 whilst staying six months with the Spanish Legion's 7th Battalion in Almeria. True to his promise, he returned this year with a team of runners from his regiment to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund, which helps former services personnel in difficulties.
Three hundred legionnaires and 800 volunteers kept participants on track and handed out 36,000 litres of water, 26,000 pieces of fruit and 32,000 cakes.
Age is no barrier in the event - the oldest participants were 69 and 73 years old - but fitness is all. The Super Marathon takes place again next year ... and now is the time to start training. Information on the race is available on the Internet.
BRITISH HEALTH SERVICE SEEKS MÁLAGA NURSES
Programme has hired 720 Spanish nurses since 2001
By Oliver McIntyre
REPRESENTATIVES OF A BRITISH NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE PROGRAMME UNDER WHICH NURSES AND OTHER MEDICAL PERSONNEL FROM SPAIN ARE CONTRACTED TO WORK IN UK HOSPITALS AND HEALTH CENTRES WERE AT THE BRITISH CONSULATE IN MÁLAGA LAST WEEK PUBLICISING THEIR UPCOMING RECRUITMENT DRIVE.
The programme, launched in 2001 as the result of an agreement between the Health Ministries of the two countries, has to date contracted 720 nurses and 70 doctors from Spain. According to programme co-ordinator Victoria Rubini, the British Government provides the Spanish medical personnel with two-year, extendable working contracts, round trip airline tickets, and housing for the first six months of their stay in England. Salaries for the nurses start at 26,000 euros a year, but can be significantly higher over time.
Nurse Marina González, a 28-year-old Málaga native who worked in Manchester under the programme, said she returned to Spain because she missed being near her family, but that the experience was very positive and she knows she has a great job waiting for her if she decides to go back. Asked about how the Spanish nurses are received in England, she said, "the patients really appreciate that we have travelled so far to take care of them."
The main criteria for the nurses to be contracted under the programme are a strong interest and at least a rudimentary knowledge of English - though they receive additional language training when they arrive in Britain. Sra Rubini says that the British know the Spanish-trained nurses are technically proficient, so their professional capability is not an issue. "Probably over 70 per cent of the candidates bidding for a spot are accepted into the programme," she said.
With 100 new hospitals and 400 new health clinics called for under the NHS's July 2000 healthcare plan, there is expected to be a continued demand for the Spanish nurses in England. For the current round of hiring, medical centre representatives will be conducting interviews in Andalucía on July 3 and 4.
NEW REEFS TO PROTECT EASTERN COASTS
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department has revealed plans to construct reefs off the coast, on the border of Málaga and Granada. The project aims to protect marine life, and at the same time to assist with the preparation of a detailed map of the seabed off the Maro and Cerro Gordo Natural Park. According to the Junta, the reefs will also protect the environment from the damage currently caused by illegal fishing close to the shore, at depths of less than 40 metres.
The artificial reefs will be made of concrete to minimise the effects of erosion and heavy seas, and are reported to have a low construction cost. Normal marine navigation will not be affected, as the reefs will not be placed in waters of less than 15 metres. The Junta says that most of the boats that presently fish illegally too close to shore come from the fishing ports of Caleta de Vélez and Motril, and from the beaches of Nerja, La Herradura and Almuñécar.