News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week August 21st to August 26th 2003.
BRITS DYING ABROAD LOSE ORGANS
Four Britons who died in Spain in last six months had body parts removed
By David Eade
THE FOREIGN OFFICE HAS ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE BODIES OF SOME BRITONS WHO DIE ABROAD ARE STRIPPED OF THEIR INTERNAL ORGANS AS A MATTER OF COURSE BEFORE THEY ARE RETURNED TO THE UK.
The Foreign Office also confirmed that four Britons who died in Spain within the last six months are amongst those whose organs were removed without the knowledge or permission of the deceased's relatives.
Spain is not alone in this practice. Coroners and lawyers have stated that similar cases have occurred in France and other European countries, as well as in third world nations. In some instances the organs are believed to have been used for medical research, whilst in other cases they have simply been incinerated.
The Foreign Office admits that many such cases have probably gone undiscovered because relatives were unaware that body parts were missing at the time of burial. The cases echo the Alder Hey scandal in Britain, when it was reported that thousands of organs had been secretly removed and stored by pathologists at the Liverpool hospital.
The Nottingham mother of a Briton who died on the Costa del Sol this year is still trying to retrieve the heart of her son. The 34-year-old man died of a heart attack while at a swimming pool in Benalmádena with his girlfriend on April 18. His mother told the press that, because he died so suddenly, a post mortem was done in Spain. However, she requested that a second autopsy be carried out when his body was returned to the UK; he had complained of feeling unwell before he went on holiday and she wanted to know whether his GP should have done more. It was at that point that she discovered that his heart was missing.
Ruth Webster, the co-ordinator of the National Committee Relating to Organ Retention, said: "People in Spain have been sent back virtually empty, and often nothing is traceable." The Spanish authorities in Málaga have told the Foreign Office that the heart will be returned when they receive the appropriate request from his mother's solicitors and local undertakers. The Foreign Office stated that in 2001 a total of 1,356 Britons died abroad and roughly a third of those cases would have required a post mortem.
POLICE FIND BODY BELIEVED TO BE MISSING COÍN GIRL
Huge police and volunteer search followed her disappearance after night at fair
By Oliver McIntyre
SEARCHERS FOUND A BODY ON TUESDAY THAT THE COÍN FIRE CHIEF CLAIMED WAS THAT OF SONIA CARABANTE GUZMÁN, THE 17-YEAR-OLD COÍN GIRL WHO HAD BEEN MISSING SINCE DISAPPEARING IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF LAST THURSDAY WHILE ON HER WAY HOME FROM THE TOWN'S VIRGEN DE LA FUENSANTA FERIA.
The body was found near Monda, partially buried under a pile of stones. Further details regarding the discovery and the official DNA or family identification of the body were not available when CDSN went to press.
After becoming aware of her absence last Thursday morning, the girl's mother, Encarna Guzmán, found Srta Carabante's purse, mobile telephone, and one of her shoes, stained with blood, just 25 metres from the family's home in the Felix Rodríguez de la Fuente urbanisation. Nearby, more blood marks were found on the hood of a parked car, with a small pool of blood on the ground below. There was also a trail of blood drops leading into the middle of the street, where it abruptly ended.
Early police investigations at the scene led to the theory that the girl was attacked just outside her home as she was arriving from the fair at about 05:00 Thursday morning, and possibly forced into a vehicle and taken away by her attacker. Police, family members, and a large group of volunteers mounted a search for the missing girl, which included the use of Guardia Civil search dogs, as well as the dogs of some of the neighbours who contributed to the volunteer efforts.
During the course of the weekend and extending into this week until the body was discovered, over a thousand volunteers assisted in the search, including two residents from San Pedro de Alcántara who brought a radio-controlled miniature helicopter to fly around the area filming images. Coín Town Hall cancelled the remainder of the town's feria, the grand finale of which would have normally occurred the night after the Srta Carabante's disappearance.
The girl's friends say she was just 200 metres from home when they last saw her after they had all left the nearby fairground. Police are interested in a white compact car that two witnesses said they saw on the night of the incident. With the body located, the police investigation is now focused on piecing together exactly what happened outside Srta Carabante's house last Thursday morning, and who is responsible for her death.
Srta Carabante and her parents have been living in Coín for the last two years after moving back from Switzerland, where her parents lived for 30 years and where the girl's two older brothers still reside. The brothers flew in from Switzerland on Saturday and immediately joined in the search efforts. Both they and the girl's parents, while devastated by the events of the last week, have expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the efforts of the townsfolk and the many volunteers who came together to assist in the search.
HIJACKED BUS BURNED OUT IN MÁLAGA
NEWS Staff Reporter
GUARDIA CIVIL OFFICERS LAST WEEK LOCATED THE MISSING DOUBLE-DECKER BUS THAT HAD BEEN HIJACKED IN LOJA AND DRIVEN TO THE COAST THE PREVIOUS SUNDAY (CDSN, AUG. 14 - 20). AT 04:00 ON THURSDAY MORNING OFFICERS FOUND THE BUS, EMPTY AND IN FLAMES, ON THE SHOULDER OF THE N-331 MOTORWAY EXIT THAT LEADS TO THE LA CONCEPCIÓN BOTANICAL GARDENS.
Guardia Civil officers described the case as singularly complex. The bus had stopped at a service station in Loja, where most of the 40 passengers got off to stretch their legs. Several armed men, posing as police, then boarded the vehicle, and hijacked it along with the 13 passengers and driver who had remained on board. They drove to Benalmádena, where the frightened group was left on the side of the road before the hijackers disappeared with the bus.
At first, police thought those perpetrating the offence had taken the vehicle with the intention of robbing its passengers, but later their suspicions turned to drug smuggling and the possible role of one of the bus's two drivers. He was eventually discovered in Algeciras, attempting to get to Morocco without having alerted police to the incident. Officers suspect that the vehicle may have been taken to a garage on an industrial estate in Málaga, where drugs, hidden on board, were removed before the bus was driven onto the N-331 and set on fire.
MUÑOZ LEADS CALL FOR REMOVAL OF MARBELLA COUNCIL
Ousted Mayor garnering support for efforts to dissolve new Town Hall
By David Eade
THE CENSURE MOTION AGAINST THE MAYOR OF MARBELLA, JULIÁN MUÑOZ, WAS PASSED LAST WEEK BY 14 VOTES TO 11, RESULTING IN THE OUSTER OF SR MUÑOZ AND THE TURNING OVER OF THE TOWN HALL TO A NEW GOVERNMENT TEAM LED BY FORMER GIL COUNCILLOR AND NOW MAYORESS MARISOL YAGÜE.
Marisol Yagüe is said to enjoy the full support of former Marbella mayor and GIL party founder Jesús Gil, as does Koke Calleja, who now controls town planning. Thus, the shadow of the former mayor still looms large over the administration of the politically troubled municipality. After last week's vote, Sra Yagüe controls the Town Hall with the seven other former members of the GIL party now in her Grupo Mixto and three former PSOE councillors and three from the Partido Andalucista.
However, the political waters in Marbella have not yet calmed. Mayoress Yagüe's Grupo Mixto partners were elected as members of GIL, a party that for all practical purposes no longer exists. The new first deputy mayoress, Isabel García Marcos, was the former leader of PSOE, but she and her two fellow PSOE councillors have been expelled from that party. Many observers believe the Partido Andalucista intends to expel its leader, Carlos Fernández, and his two party-mates, but as the CDSN went to press he was claiming he had received no such notification from the party.
The big question in Marbella now is how long this tri-party coalition can stay in power. Mayor Julián Muñoz is seeking to have the new council dissolved by either the central or regional government. It is believed that senior national members of the Partido Popular, PSOE and PA have met to discuss the dissolution of the town council.
PETITIONS AND PROTESTS
In just four days, a petition drawn up by the 'Platforma Pro-Disolución del Ayuntamiento de Marbella' has gained over 12,000 signatures. The petition has been signed by residents of the town, business owners, property developers, trade unions and political parties. It calls upon Spain's lower house of parliament to stop the crisis in Marbella by dissolving the new tri-party government.
On Monday night 5,000 people took to the streets, marching from the Alemeda gardens to the Club Financiero Inmobiliario, the headquarters of Jesús Gil. The mass demonstration against the new council and in support of the dissolution petition echoed to the cries for the restoration of democracy, and condemned new Mayoress Yagüe as being former Mayor Gil's puppet.
TORREMOLINOS TAX BREAKS FOR REGISTERED RESIDENTS
By Oliver McIntyre
THE TORREMOLINOS TOWN COUNCIL LAST WEEK APPROVED AN INCREASE IN MUNICIPAL TAXES, INCLUDING WATER, SEWER AND GARBAGE, AS WELL AS IBI REAL ESTATE TAXES. HOWEVER, THE COUNCIL ALSO APPROVED A SUBSIDY PLAN THAT WILL REDUCE THE TAX INCREASES' IMPACT ON REGISTERED ('EMPADRONADO') RESIDENTS OF THE TOWN. OF THE ESTIMATED 120,000 RESIDENTS OF THE MUNICIPALITY, JUST 52,000 ARE OFFICIALLY REGISTERED.
Under the approved plan, the water and sewer tax will increase by 3.5 per cent over 2003 rates for all residents. But there will also be a new quarterly fee of three euros for the sewer service, of which registered residents will only have to pay one euro, with the other two euros subsidised by the Town Hall.
As for the garbage and IBI real estate taxes, registered residents will be completely unaffected by the rate hike, as the Town Hall is to provide subsidies equal to the amount of the increases. In the case of garbage collection, that increase is between 50 and 66 per cent, while the IBI increase depends largely on the type of property, but could be as much as 150 per cent, according to Izquierda Unida spokesman José Luis González. Sr González's party, along with the Town Hall's other opposition group (PSOE), voted against the tax-and-subsidies scheme, calling it discriminatory.
NERJA MOVES TO PROTECT SEA BATHERS
New safety regulations imposed on small recreational craft
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA TOWN HALL IS TAKING ACTION TO PROTECT THE SWIMMERS ON ITS BEACHES, AND GOT A HELPING HAND WITH THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT'S RECENT MOVE TO CLOSE LOOPHOLES ON THE REGULATION OF SMALL MOTORISED WATERCRAFT.
Twenty-eight incidents in which vessels have invaded bathing-only areas off Nerja's beaches have been reported to the Málaga authorities. A string of yellow buoys off the municipality's coast marks the boundary of protected swimming areas into which vessels are not allowed enter, while a number of channels for craft to come and go from beaches are clearly marked as non-bathing areas. However, the Town Hall has now made official complaints to Francisco Hoya, the Maritime Captain at Málaga, detailing the types of craft, their matriculation numbers, plus the place and date of each of 28 infractions when the bathing area boundary was breached.
It is understood many of the incidents relate to activity involving jet-skis, and that some users have been reported for more than one offence. Data on the incidents has been collected by lifeguards and members of the town's Civil Protection unit, and most occurred along Burriana Beach. Nerja's councillor for Beaches, José Miguel García, said that the Town Hall has taken measures to help bathers by installing the marker buoys and will ensure that the swimming areas are protected. Meanwhile, the Government has moved to close a legal loophole in order to include all motor-powered recreational craft within existing safety regulations. It comes after an explosion in the numbers of small craft fitted with low-powered motors, but used at speeds that put others at risk. In particular, jet-surfing has proliferated along the Málaga coastline, with equipment imported from the U.S. Typically, a surf board of 2.5 metres in length and 70 kilograms in weight is fitted with a motor that allows it to reach speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.
NEW SAFETY REQUIREMENTS
Going into effect from August 1, the revised regulations became applicable to any recreational craft that can travel at over 10 knots, or about 18 kilometres per hour. In addition, a number of new safety requirements have been introduced. Use of the motorised surfboards, which is legal only in daylight and good weather, is restricted to those at least 18 years old, or 16 with parental consent, and requires each craft to carry insurance. Motors must have an automatic cut-off that will stop the craft should the rider fall into the water. Racing is illegal, and riders are required to wear a lifejacket, safety helmet and protective goggles. Use is not permitted in zones designated for bathing or, in the absence of such zones, 200 metres of the shore.
NEW ESTEPONA-RONDA REGIONAL FIRE SERVICE
By David Eade
ESTEPONA IS TO BE ONE OF THE BASES FOR A NEW REGIONAL FIRE SERVICE COVERING THE AREA BETWEEN THE COAST AND RONDA. THE PROJECT WILL BE FINANCED JOINTLY BETWEEN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA AND THE VARIOUS MUNICIPALITIES THAT WILL BE COVERED BY THE SERVICE.
Plans call for the fire service to have two bases - the Estepona one and another in Ronda. It will provide fire protection for those two municipalities as well as Manilva, Casares, Jubrique, Genalguacil, Benahavís and the Serranía de Ronda.
Estepona's new fire station is to be built at the intersection of Avenida Juan Carlos I and the N-340 motorway. The plans for the project will be finalised in September and the first contracts should be issued in November.
The new project allows for a complete upgrading of the firefighting equipment currently used by Estepona. Amongst the additions will be a rescue-ladder fire engine, an aquatic-rescue unit plus other civil defence services.
MIJAS BEGINS REVISION TO TOWN PLANNING ORDINANCE
MIJAS BEGINS REVISION TO TOWN PLANNING ORDINANCE
By Oliver McIntyre
The Mijas Town Council last week approved a motion to begin the revision of the municipal planning ordinance (PGOU) in order to bring it up to date with the regional government's new Ley de Ordenación Urbanística planning law. The revision will include mandatory quotas for government-assisted housing, as well as a variety of policies aimed at environmental sustainability. Some of the goals of the revised plan will be to avoid over-development in residential areas, improve water management, and provide land protections in certain sensitive areas, such as the coastal environment.
Just days after approving the motion for the PGOU revision, the Town Hall reported that it has annulled a line-item from the existing planning ordinance that allowed for a 50 per cent increase in construction density. The town's Urban Planning councillor, Luis Vasco, indicated that there is already sufficient building opportunity without the 50 per cent increase, and that cutting the line-item served to put a brake on speculation and over-development. According to Sr Vasco, the goal is to promote less construction, but of a higher quality, such as developers have done in planning the town's Valle de Golf, where just eight to 10 homes per hectare are to be built, rather than the 20 permitted by law.
WATER COMPANIES WARN OF HIGH CONSUMPTION
WATER COMPANIES WARN OF HIGH CONSUMPTION
NEWS Staff Reporter
Costa del Sol water companies have begun to raise concerns about the increased water consumption in the region caused by soaring summer temperatures and the massive influx of holidaymakers. Water consumption was up 20 per cent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year. And that doesn't take into account the spike in usage that typically occurs in July, August and September, three months that typically make up nearly 40 per cent of the annual water consumption - as much as the first six months of the year combined.
Representatives from both Acosol (the water company for the western Costa del Sol) and Málaga's Emasa have expressed the need for consumers to use water responsibly and avoid waste. According to Acosol's Antonio Rodríguez, there is no immediate threat, as current water supplies should be able to cover a yearlong period. But in the event of a draught, such as that experienced in 1995, problems could arise in the longer term. On a more optimistic note, Emasa's José Luis Rodríguez believes that the 1995 draught left a lasting impression on local residents, who he says are typically quite conscious of the precariousness of the region's water supply.
The level of the region's reservoirs dropped three per cent in just one week during the recent heat wave, bringing them to 39 per cent of capacity. However, despite the increase in water usage this year, reservoir levels are actually slightly (1.9 per cent) higher than last year, due to the relatively heavy rains experienced over the winter and spring.