News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week July 23rd to July 30th 2003.
POLICE TARGET AIRPORT THIEVES
Security increased to combat organised criminal gangs
By Dave Jamieson
OFFICIALS ARE TIGHTENING SECURITY AT MÁLAGA AIRPORT IN AN EFFORT TO CRACK DOWN ON LUGGAGE THEFTS SUFFERED BY PASSENGERS TRAVELLING TO AND FROM THE COSTA DEL SOL.
National Police numbers have been increased to combat organised criminals who prowl around the terminals seeking opportunities to snatch suitcases and bags from distracted travellers. Between January and June, 164 charges of theft were made at Málaga airport, nearly all of which related to stolen luggage. However, the true number of thefts is believed to be much higher, as it is thought that many foreign travellers do not have time to report the incident before boarding flights and, instead, make a claim on their insurance policies when they get home.
Police report that the latest ruse used by thieves is to target those arriving at the airport for a departing flight. As the travellers unload luggage from a car or taxi, they are approached by a stranger asking for help. When they are distracted by trying to answer his question, an accomplice grabs their luggage from the pavement, throws it into a vehicle, and drives off. Other thieves operate inside the terminals, waiting for passengers to take their eyes off their luggage, or causing a distraction to deflect the individual's attention, allowing the bags and suitcases to be snatched.
Police sources say that the thieves preying on passengers at Málaga airport are mainly South Americans, predominantly from Chile and Peru, as well as French Algerians and Romanians. Security officials have reminded airport users to be vigilant, never to lose sight of their luggage and to be suspicious of any stranger who approaches them.
LOW INCIDENT RATE
With an estimated 3.5 million people passing through the arrival and departure halls of Málaga airport during the summer months, the incidence of luggage theft is actually quite low on a percentage basis and the vast majority of holidaymakers arrive and leave without problems. But by increasing police presence and public awareness, the airport authorities aim to put the brakes on it completely.
FIRE DEATHS SPEED AXARQUÍA FIRE PROTECTION UPGRADE
Toddlers' mother denies suggestion of abandonment
By Dave Jamieson
THE TRAGIC DEATHS OF TWO YOUNG BROTHERS IN A HOUSE FIRE IN THE TOWN OF PERIANA 10 DAYS AGO (CDSN, JULY 17-23) HAS INCREASED PRESSURE FOR THE EARLY IMPLEMENTATION OF PLANS FOR IMPROVED FIRE-PROTECTION COVERAGE THROUGHOUT THE AXARQUÍA REGION.
Questions about the time taken for fire service crews to arrive were raised immediately after the tragedy. Periana does not have a fire station, and emergency services, which had to travel the 30 kilometres from Vélez-Málaga to tackle the blaze, reportedly took 20 minutes to arrive, during which time neighbours, including the village's mayor, attempted to extinguish the flames. By the time the fire fighters got there, part of the house had already been destroyed.
Two days after the tragedy, the president of the Málaga's provincial committee for fire services, Salvador Pendón, said that the planned new fire coverage arrangements for the Axarquía could be functioning this year, rather than in 2005 as originally planned. He expressed his hope that the four Town Halls in the region that have yet to agree to the terms of the new service will have come to arrangements before August. They will join over 20 other towns to be served by a base in Vélez-Málaga, supported by units in individual towns at a level "dependent on the will and available economic resources" of each, according to Sr Pendón.
FATHER ACCUSES MOTHER
Fire investigators believe the July 13 fire near Lake Viñuela in Periana was caused by a short circuit in the home of two-year-old Joel P. and three-year-old Jairo P. The children's mother, who escaped uninjured, has been criticised by the boys' father, José P. (26), for allegedly having "abandoned" them. However, the mother, 22-year-old Véronica M., said her conscience is clear and that she did all she could to save the children. She told reporters that she was showering when she heard an explosion, after which the room was filled with flames and smoke. She then searched for the pair but could not find them, as they had hidden in a cupboard "out of fear." Her last memory of the boys, she recalled, was of them playing happily on the bed moments before the disaster.
ANOTHER VÉLEZ FIRE
Meanwhile, Vélez fire crews rescued a five-year-old boy from a caravan fire last Friday. The blaze at the town's fairground is thought to have been started by an electrical short circuit. The boy's grandmother had left him alone to go shopping only moments before the fire started.
STATE INVESTIGATES MARBELLA MAYOR'S FINANCES
By David Eade
THE SPANISH TAX AUTHORITIES HAVE STARTED AN OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION INTO THE ORIGIN OF THE PERSONAL WEALTH OF THE MAYOR OF MARBELLA, JULIÁN MUÑOZ.
Mayor Muñoz has declared that his only two sources of income are his 6,600-euro-a-month salary as mayor and a further 3,600 euros a month he receives as a provincial representative.
Tax officials announced the investigation after the State Tribunal of Accounts placed an embargo against Mr Muñoz's income in order to guarantee the return of more than 24 million euros of public funds. The tribunal has the competence to embargo the possessions of those presumed responsible for accounting irregularities. In this instance, the state body is investigating 24 million euros that disappeared from the municipal company Jardines 2000, over which Mr Muñoz presided.
Between the years 1994 and 1999 the company received from Marbella Town Hall 40.5 million euros, of which 3.5 million euros was transferred to other municipal companies. The state auditors claim that 24 million euros is missing and its loss has not been justified.
n March of this year the State Anti-Corruption Prosecutor placed a case before the High Court against former Marbella Mayor Jesús Gil, current Mayor Muñoz, and 33 other people. The prosecutor claims that they transferred monies in order to avoid the legal controls on the disposition of public funds. Overall it is alleged that 372 million euros have not been accounted for by the GIL administration in Marbella for the years 1991-1999.
OLD AND NEW
After 18 months of construction work, the completed renovations to Alhaurín de la Torre's Barrio Viejo historic district were officially inaugurated last week. New stone and brickwork, updated drinking-water plumbing, and upgraded electricity and lighting systems are among the improvements that have modernised the neighbourhood while respecting its historic look. The Town Hall commemorated the completion of the 600,000-euro project with the placement of a ceramic plaque displaying a poem eulogising Barrio Viejo. The poem evokes images of the Barrio's history as a white-washed neighbourhood where water from the nearby flour mills flowed down into the village laundry-washing area and the aroma of baking bread filled the air.
MARBELLA'S PLANNING LICENCES GO TO COURT
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HAS DETECTED NEW PLANNING IRREGULARITIES ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED BY THE GIL ADMINISTRATION IN MARBELLA.
The provincial delegate of Public Works for Málaga, José María Ruiz Povedano, said that, in addition to irregularities previously detected, the planning officers have found another 150 building permissions that seem to contravene the town planning laws. To date, 160 licences have been opposed by the Andalucían government for breaking the 1986 town planning ordinance. The courts have so far accepted 12 of these challenges, resulting in the halting of construction on 1,500 dwellings.
Sr Povedano said he was "very worried" by the climate of town planning insecurity that exists in the municipality. These concerns are shared by many companies involved in the property sector in Marbella.
Meanwhile, the Government's sub-delegate in Málaga, Carlos Rubio, has defended the central Government's stance on not starting work on the much-needed San Pedro N-340 underpass until the conflict over Marbella's town planning ordinance has been settled.
Sr Rubio called for the resolution of the dispute between the regional government and Marbella Town Hall. He insisted that both of these bodies have it in their power to unblock the negotiations on the underpass. However, the regional government has just rejected Marbella's revised town planning ordinance for the third time, so there appears to be no imminent settlement in sight.
PLEASURE BOAT OWNERS TO FACE NEW REGULATIONS
By Oliver McIntyre
New regulations for safety equipment on recreational vessels go into effect in August. Pleasure boat owners will have six months from that time to ensure that their vessels are outfitted with the safety gear (fire extinguishers, flotation and other rescue devices, navigational equipment, pollution prevention, etc.) required for the particular type of boating they do.
In contrast to previous laws, which were based on the size or type of boat, the new pleasure boating regulations are based on seven categories of activity - or zones of navigation - defined by the distance from shore a boat travels. Zone one encompasses unlimited high seas cruising, zone two reaches up to 60 miles offshore, zone three up to 25 miles, and so on, up to zone seven, which is defined as protected waters near the shoreline. Each boat owner will be responsible for ensuring that his or her craft is equipped with the safety equipment required for the zone in which the boat is used. For example, any vessel cruising further than 12 miles from shore (zone three or lower) must have a life raft with the capacity to carry all of the boat's passengers. There are currently 11,182 recreational boats registered in the province of Málaga. According to Adolfo Serrano, head of the Maritime Rescue Centre for the province, 52 per cent of all maritime emergencies involve pleasure craft.
FOUNDATION ASSURES FUTURE OF ENGLISH CEMETERY
By Dave Jamieson
A charitable foundation is to take over the maintenance and conservation of the English Cemetery in Málaga. The cemetery has been the target of attacks by vandals on several occasions in recent months, resulting in damage to a number of graves.
The creation of the foundation was announced last week following a meeting in Málaga attended by the British ambassador in Spain, Steven Wright, the city's mayor, Francisco de la Torre, and the British consul in the province, Bruce McIntyre. Mr Wright explained that the foundation, which will be open to support from Spanish sponsors as well as from British interests in Málaga, is aimed at securing public and private funds to finance maintenance and restoration work. The first work to be undertaken will be the upgrading of the cemetery's outside walls and improvements to security, at a cost of around 18,000 euros.
The establishment of the foundation follows a letter sent by Mayor De la Torre to the British ambassador after the most recent acts of vandalism in May, in which the mayor underlined the urgent need to find a solution for long-term care of the site. The ambassador last week confirmed the British Government's intention to ensure the future maintenance of the cemetery, which was founded in 1831 and was the first of its kind in the country.
COSTA'S PREMIER 'UNDERGROUND' ARTS FESTIVAL BEGINS
NEWS Staff Reporter
Nerja's fabled annual festival of the arts is underway. The 44th Caves Festival opened on Tuesday with a flamenco night featuring José Menese in a programme of traditional flamenco and other Spanish dance styles, while last night was given over to song, as the Los Angeles Jubilee Singers performed traditional and contemporary gospel and spiritual music. The history of the festival dates back to 1960 and the public opening of the then newly-discovered complex of caves at Maro, now Spain's third most popular monument, with over half a million entrances last year. The inaugural concert welcomed the Ballet La Tour de Paris, which performed a programme including scenes from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake', believed to be the first time in history that the ballet had been seen in such a setting. The reaction from those in attendance, including numerous celebrities from the world of art, culture and politics, persuaded the caves' administrators, the Patronato de la Cueva de Nerja, to celebrate the discovery of the caverns in the same manner each summer.
The festival has always attracted big names. Dame Kiri te Kanawa made her first visit last year, while the recital by Mstislav Rostropovich in 1991 was attended by Queen Sofia. Yehudi Menuhin, Jaoquin Cortés and Monserrat Caballé are amongst many others who have appeared in the spectacular natural 'concert hall' over the years.
This year's festival continues tonight and tomorrow, Friday 25, with performances by the Argentinean dancer Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino in a dance compilation based on music from their country. Saturday's closing concert will be an Opera Gala, featuring the baritone Juan Pons and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Málaga, conducted by Kamal Khan.