News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week July 31st to August 6th 2003.
HOTTEST SUMMER IN 60 YEARS
Not since 1942 has the Costa been so hot in early summer
By Oliver McIntyre
DATA FROM SPAIN'S NATIONAL METEOROLOGY INSTITUTE HAS CONFIRMED WHAT MANY OVERHEATED RESIDENTS AND TOURISTS ON THE COSTA HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL SUMMER LONG: IT'S HOTTER THAN USUAL.
The average high-temperature reading in Málaga during the month of June this year was 30.4 degrees Celsius, the hottest in 60 years; to find similar highs in June, you have to roll back the clocks to 1942.
July, while not as record-breaking in overall average highs (similar temperatures can be found looking back a relatively short 15 years), brought some scorching-hot individual days, such as those experience last weekend. Sunday, July 27, for example, saw thermometers shooting up to over 40 degrees - and tourists sweating in the shade under their beach umbrellas.
According to the Málaga Meteorology Centre, the unusually high temperatures on the Costa are due to a persistent warm front along the coastline, along with a lack of wind in the Straits of Gibraltar, which means no mass of new air comes in to push out the warm front. Added to this phenomenon are the hot, overland breezes known as the 'terral' winds, which bring in additional heat.
The high temperatures have greater consequences than just overheated tourists. They also create a hike in electricity consumption, as air-conditioners are switched on at full blast in homes and offices throughout the province. According to the power supply company Sevillana-Endesa, the heaviest demand for electricity was on Thursday, July 24, when 1009 megawatts were consumed - 50 per cent more than normal. The company expects to see days with consumption as high as 1020 megawatts during the month of August. If that's the case, then despite the fact that temperatures are finally cooling off after the most recent heat blast, we can expect more baking-hot days in the weeks to come.
IMMIGRATION MAFIAS NOW USING FALSE PASSPORTS
By David Eade
AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO BRINGING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS INTO SPAIN ON INFLATABLE LAUNCHES, THE MAFIAS INVOLVED IN THIS HUMAN TRADE HAVE SWITCHED TO USING FALSE DOCUMENTATION.
This new initiative was uncovered by the foreign affairs brigade of the National Police. They have broken up a network dedicated to introducing Moroccan citizens via the port of Algeciras. Once safely through the frontier control, the immigrants were transferred to a 'finca' in Morón de la Frontera in the province of Sevilla. From there they were moved on to towns in the provinces of Huelva and Jaén to work on farms.
According to National Police sources, the gang collected Moroccans for transportation to Spain, promising they would be given agricultural work. The illegal immigrants were then supplied with a false Moroccan passport, a Schengen visa issued in Italy plus a fake Italian identity card to allow them to gain access to Spain.
Once the immigrants were in Spain, the gang members confiscated the false documentation and destroyed it. They also retained the illegal immigrants' original Moroccan passports, which were only returned when a debt of up to 6,000 euros was paid off.
In breaking up the gang the police arrested two presumed Moroccan mafia leaders, a 43-year-old with a previous conviction and a 27-year-old. They also detained the two Spanish owners of the finca in Morón de la Frontera, aged 63 and 73.
STILL COMING BY BOAT
Despite the switch by illegal immigrant mafias to more sophisticated methods of smuggling people into Spain, the waves of North Africans seeking to reach Europe by boat still continue. On just one day last week, 206 people attempted the crossing in three boats. Two landed on the beaches of Tarifa whilst the third came ashore at Conil.
One of the inflatable boats that came ashore at Tarifa was just eight-and-a-half metres long and two-and-a-half metres wide, yet it was packed with 77 people. This is believed to be a record for the number of people making the crossing in such a boat. Amongst the passengers were pregnant women, children plus four babies, one of them just four months old.
BRITON SUSPECTED IN JEWELLERY HEIST
NEWS Staff Reporter
Two men recently held up the Mari Carmen jewellery shop situated in Avenida Ricardo Soriano in Marbella. According to police sources, one of the men was overweight and had Arab features whilst the other is believed to be British and walked with a limp.
The pair entered the shop at 20:30 and asked one of the salespeople for details about a particular watch. They then produced two guns and ordered the employees of the shop to lie down on the floor. No official figures have been released regarding the value of the items stolen. Police reports indicate that the thieves only stole one tray containing rings and watches. They made a speedy get-away in a Volkswagen Golf, which a local police patrol searched for on the motorway, but without success.
IMPROVED AXARQUÍA FIRE COVER SET FOR OCTOBER
Officials move quickly after toddlers' deaths
By Dave Jamieson
THE AXARQUÍA'S LONG-DELAYED NEW FIRE-COVER ARRANGEMENTS (CDSN, LAST WEEK) ARE NOW SET TO COME INTO EFFECT IN LESS THAN THREE MONTHS.
The new president of the provincial government, Salvador Pendón, confirmed last week that the constitution and implementation of the revised and improved service is planned for the first fortnight of October. The promise came in Vélez-Málaga at a meeting of 20 of the region's 31 municipalities, and brings forward the fire-service's start date from its original target of 2005. Sr Pendón said that, during the summer, the Town Halls should approve or ratify any statutes that need amendments in preparation for the changes. He also insisted that the formation of the new service is the provincial government's "first priority" following the deaths earlier this month of two toddlers in a house fire in Periana, after which criticism was voiced of the amount of time it took firefighters to arrive from Vélez-Málaga.
COSTS SHARED BETWEEN TOWNS
The planned upgrade will see a main base at Vélez-Málaga, reinforcements at Rincón de la Victoria, Periana and Nerja, plus four smaller units at Alfarnate, Colmenar, Cómpeta and Canillas de Aceituno. Costs will be divided between municipalities according to population and geographical size, ranging from 720 euros to be paid annually by Árchez to 339,000 euros to be paid by Vélez-Málaga
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ON THE INCREASE
By David Eade
According to the latest statistics from Marbella, cases of violence against women are on the increase despite the introduction of speedy hearings by the courts. Marbella's councillor for Women's Issues, Carmen Revilla, has announced that so far this year there have been 120 reported cases of abuse in the town. That figure is just three short of the total for the entire year of 2002.
Sra Revilla added that the implementation of speedy hearings does not guarantee rapid or efficient assistance for abused women. Of the 60 cases handled via speedy trial in the last three months, the majority were classified as minor offences subject to arrest and a monetary fine, rather than as serious criminal offences with a penal sentence.
Various organisations are co-ordinating with each other to make a fundamental impact on violence to women. These include police forces, doctors, psychologists, jurists, lawyers and social workers. Councillor Revilla has announced that the GIL administration intends to present a motion for Marbella to adhere to the protocol of the Andalucían Federation of Municipalities, which establishes a co-ordination process for the various institutions involved in the fight against violence against women.
In the legislative field, the imminent modification of the legal code to reclassify as a crime what is now classified as an offence in abuse cases will be the central theme in a legal conference to be organised by Marbella Town Hall.
Meanwhile, a 37-year-old Colombian man has been arrested by police in Marbella for alleged sexual aggression against his wife, who had previously reported him for physical abuse. The alleged attack took place in front of the couple's one-year-old child. The man has numerous legal complaints laid against him for physical abuse and was subject to a court order to stay away from his wife. Police say he forced his way in to her home to attack her, then left, taking the keys to the home with him. The woman notified the police, who arrested the man two days later when he returned to her home.
NERJA CAT OWNERS WARNED OF CULL
NEWS Staff Reporter
Nerja's Town Hall has confirmed that it is undertaking an extensive cull of cats in the town. Under the programme, cats found in seven areas - mainly in coastal zones, but including Capistrano and around the Sports Centre - will be caught with nets and then put down. Officers of the Costa Animal Society (CAS) who made representations to the Town Hall on Monday said they had been unable to get an assurance from the councillor responsible, Rafael Rivas Maldonado, that domestic pets - identified by a collar or microchip - would be spared.
Ironically, CAS received 400 euros from the Town Hall in the last year to finance an ongoing spay/neuter programme, in which 232 cats have been spayed or neutered in 24 months. However, following complaints from residents alleging that children had been bitten by cat fleas, councillors are understood to believe that the CAS initiative has been unsuccessful and that culling the feline population is the only solution to controlling cat numbers. CAS members and local vets have condemned the arbitrary nature of the cull and are warning cat owners in the town to be aware of the campaign and its potential danger to innocent family pets.
CUSTOMERS FILE CHARGES AGAINST MUNDO MÁGICO
New association of the affected clients says more lawsuits to follow
By Oliver McIntyre
THE CUSTOMERS WHO NEVER RECEIVED THE PRE-PAID HOLIDAY PACKAGES THEY PURCHASED FROM THE COMPANY MUNDO MÁGICO NOW HAVE A NAME - AND A LEGAL CASE.
The Association of Consumers Affected by Mundo Mágico (ACAMA), made up of some 300 customers in Andalucía, filed charges against the Benalmádena-based company last week in a Torremolinos court. The collective lawsuit accuses Mundo Mágico of fraud and misappropriation of funds, and also levies charges against 13 other affiliated companies.
Mundo Mágico sold multi-year holiday deals in which customers pre-paid between 3,000 and 12,000 euros for five to 50 years' worth of discounted rates on hotels and holiday apartments. An investigation into the company's activity began after authorities received complaints from customers about the outfit's failure to follow through on the holiday deals it had promised. The company began closing its offices, and ultimately acknowledged that, due to financial problems stemming from the bank cutting off its line of credit, it could not meet its obligations to customers.
The president of ACAMA, Rafael Fernández, indicated that the lawsuit filed last week is just the first shot in the group's legal battle against Mundo Mágico. He said the association will continue filing additional lawsuits in the coming weeks, as more affected individuals come forward. According to Sr Fernández, the group is receiving an average of 15 calls a day from customers saying they were defrauded by the company.
CUSTOMERS STILL PAYING
ACAMA has also requested that the banks forgive the loans they provided to the Mundo Mágico customers to pay the up-front cost of the holiday deals. ACAMA's lawyer says that if the banks do not comply, the group will file a civil suit seeking nullification of the loans. Meanwhile, many of the customers are still making their loan payments on the now non-existent holiday packages, and those that have stopped doing so are at risk of damaging their credit rating.
The Association of Banking Consumers (Ausbanc) estimates that Mundo Mágico took in a total of at least 12 million euros from as many as 4,000 customers throughout Spain and elsewhere in Europe.
GET YOUR BUTT OUT OF THE SAND
Volunteers encourage smokers to clean up their act at the beach
By Oliver McIntyre
THE ENVIRONMENTAL VOLUNTEERS FROM BENALMÁDENA'S AULA DEL MAR MARINE CENTRE WERE SPREADING A MESSAGE - AND A CREATIVE SOLUTION - AROUND THE TOWN'S BEACHES LAST WEEK.
While the 30 volunteers were collecting discarded cigarette butts from the sand, they educated beach-goers about the importance of properly disposing of their finished cigarettes, and handed out home-made ashtrays to help them do so. The volunteers fashioned the ashtrays themselves, with the help of youngsters and other interested folks at the beach, using materials like tuna or beverage cans and other recycled items, which they decorated with paint before distributing.
On their first day of cleaning cigarettes from the beaches, it took the volunteers just one hour to collect enough butts to string together a 15-metre-long chain of cigarette ends. Later in the day, the chain grew to 35 metres. The volunteers said they planned to keep adding to the string of butts, and to use the final result as a symbol of the sanitation problem caused by irresponsible disposal of cigarettes on the beaches.
According to Aula del Mar co-ordinator Cristina Moreno, cigarette butts are more dangerous than other types of debris because they can transmit diseases and are so small that they get missed by the beach-cleaning machines that rake other rubbish off the sands. When collecting the cigarette ends, the volunteers wore protective rubber gloves and used fishing nets.
The cigarette-butt collection and education campaign came as just one in a series of summer projects to be taken on by the environmental volunteers. The team, officially called the Benalmádena Shoreline Volunteer Network, was recently created in a joint effort between the Town Hall and Aula del Mar.
FAIR DECISION CALLED UNFAIR
By Dave Jamieson
Last week's announcement that this year's annual fair in Málaga is taking the works of Pablo Picasso as its theme has been criticised by the city's Federation of Peñas, whose members operate many of the 'casetas', or fair booths. With the opening of the city's new Picasso museum only three months away, the Town Hall announced it has negotiated with the artist's family, which owns the rights to his designs, allowing images by Málaga's most famous son to be widely used during the 'feria' celebration.
What has upset the federation's president, Rafel Trigo, is the short notice given. To encourage participation, the Town Hall has launched a competition for the best caseta decorations in Picasso's style. But Sr Trigo says that many organisations had already chosen their design theme and were working on the decorations, with last week's announcement taking them by surprise. However, Málaga's Culture councillor, Diego Maldonado, defended the decision, saying that once the Federation learns more about it, its members will participate "resolutely, generously and massively in the project." He emphasised that the designs should include Picasso motifs, but not pictures of the artist or full reproductions of his works.
Six million people are expected to visit the Málaga fair, which runs from August 15 to 24, injecting around 130 million euros into the local economy and producing the city's highest hotel occupancy of the year. Security will be stepped up this year, with 450 police officers patrolling both the day and night fairs. As at last year's fair, metal detectors will be used at the entrances to areas that attract large numbers of young people.
The night-time fairground, presently being fitted with 435,000 coloured lamps, will consume as much electrical power as a city the size of Toledo. Live entertainment will include a performance by Nerja's Nuria Fergó, singing songs from her new CD 'Paralelamente' in the Municipal Caseta on Saturday August 16.
Meanwhile, Málaga's new Picasso museum continues to prepare for its October opening with the launch of its Internet site. More than 200 works covering the artist's long and prolific career, from his first academic studies to the 1970s, will be permanently displayed at the museum, including many of his most popular paintings. A number of these, along with background information in English, can be found on the Web site at picassomuseomalaga.org.