News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week November 20th to November 26th 2003.
SNAIL MAIL GAINS GROUND
Correos takes measures to address Costa delivery backlog
By Olive McIntyre
POSTAL COMPANY CORREOS HAS TAKEN MEASURES TO CATCH UP WITH A LARGE BACKLOG OF UNDELIVERED MAIL IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA, WHILE ANNOUNCING THAT IT INTENDS TO RESOLVE DELIVERY PROBLEMS PRIOR TO THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.
Correos has reduced its undelivered mail backlog from nearly 900,000 on October 22 to 507,000 in early November, a 42 per cent decrease. These figures come from the UGT trade union, and the post office itself says the current backlog is the equivalent of just one day of deliveries taking into account that over 700 postal workers deliver approximately 600,000 items of mail per day.
MORE STAFFING NEEDED
Nonetheless, the PSOE MP Miguel Ángel Heredia has announced that Correos needs at least 10 per cent more staffing to meet current demand. He points to Government data indicating that between 1997 and 2002 the volume of mail delivered in the province jumped from 90 million to 130 million, and outgoing mail soared nearly 65 per cent, from 51 million to nearly 84 million. In that same period, the number of workers increased just 34 per cent, from 549 to 733.
In the October report that stated that Correos was behind by nearly 900,000, it was indicated that the company needed at least 27 additional workers in the province in order to be able to effectively handle current mail loads.
CORREOS' STRATEGIC PLAN
Last week Correos presented its national strategic plan for 2004 - 2006, including as many as 200 individual measures and 750 million euros of investment. Among other things, technological improvements and automation of mail sorting are included and are scheduled to take effect in Málaga next year. In earlier statements, Correos indicated that part of its plan for addressing the backlog in Málaga was to beef up staffing at particularly busy locations. However, in its strategic plan the company did not reveal any specific information about the number of additional mail carriers or other postal personnel it plans to hire in the province.
FOUR-YEAR-OLD DIES IN NERJA HEALTH CENTRE
Mystery virus held responsible for girl's sudden death
By Dave Jamieson
A four year old died while being attended at Nerja's Health Centre. The girl was taken for emergency treatment by her parents in the early hours of last Wednesday, suffering from a fever, and was treated by a doctor, who then sent the family home with the recommendation to take the child to hospital if she did not improve. Two hours later, the father, who did not have transport, returned to the health centre where staff called 061 for emergency assistance. However, the child was reported to be in a state of shock and twice suffered cardiac arrest and died before she could be moved to the regional hospital in Vélez-Málaga. The family, whose identity has not been revealed, is understood to be part of Nerja's Argentinean community and had only recently arrived in the town.
A post-mortem in Málaga showed the girl had died from a virus, as yet undefined, and samples have been sent to the Institute of Toxicology in Sevilla in an attempt to determine its type. Health authorities in the Axarquía confirmed that this was not the first death caused by an unknown virus but made the assurance that it was not contagious. The director of Nerja's Health Centre, Francisco Vellejo, maintained the following day that staff had acted 'correctly' in treating the child.
MOROCCANS ARRESTED FOR RONDA HOTEL MURDER
By David Eade
As previously reported in the CDSN, the woman owner of the Aguilar hotel in central Ronda was found dead in one of the bedrooms on October 21. Her body showed signs of being suffocated and police immediately started a search for several people of foreign nationality who had been seen acting suspiciously near the hotel. Now three Moroccans, two men and a woman, have been arrested in Fuengirola suspected of carrying out the crime. They were held on Friday night and detained over the weekend before being brought before the courts on Monday.
The Ronda court ordered that the victim's body be sent to the Institute of Legal Medicine in Málaga for a post mortem. The results confirmed that the woman had been suffocated and gagged by her aggressors. She had also been hit a number of times on the head and face. According to family sources the 58-year-old hotel owner had been asked on the day of her murder to be shown a room by two men. One of the men was said to be around 30 years of age.
POLITICAL CHAOS REIGNS AT MARBELLA TOWN HALL
Latest spat between mayoress and Town Planning chief
By David Eade
MORE POLITICAL MANOEUVRING AND INFIGHTING HAS ERUPTED IN MARBELLA, AS MAYORESS MARISOL YAGÜE FIGHTS TO MAINTAIN FIRM CONTROL OVER THE COALITION ADMINISTRATION.
The story is complex and begins back on May 25, with the municipal elections. When the people of Marbella went to the polls they elected four parties to the Town Hall. The long-ruling GIL party retained overall control with 15 seats; PSOE had five, Partido Popular four and Partido Andalucista three. The municipality seemed set for another term of GIL rule, with Julián Muñoz as mayor.
However, nearly three months later a section of the GIL party rebelled against the mayor. In a censure motion on August 13 Sr Muñoz was voted out of office. This led to a complete re-alignment of the political groups on the Town Council, with the initial four parties fragmenting into seven.
NEW TOWN HALL LANDSCAPE
GIL dropped from 15 seats to just one. The former GIL members led by Marisol Yagüe, who forced the censure motion, created the Grupo Mixto A with seven seats. The former mayor led Grupo Mixto B, with six seats filled by ex-GIL councillors who stayed loyal to him. Grupo Municipal Socialista was made up of three former PSOE councillors who supported the censure motion in defiance of their own party. This left the PSOE group with just two seats and the PP and PA as they were, with four and three seats, respectively.
On November 12 there was a further split. Three of the former GIL councillors who made up Grupo Mixto B with former mayor Julián Muñoz now formed Grupo Mixto D. Meanwhile, the one remaining GIL councillor formed Grupo Mixto C, as the former ruling party is now defunct. There's more. Koke Calleja, who headed up Town Planning in the GIL era and continues in that role today, invited the members of the new Grupo Mixto D to join the tri-party ruling coalition. He even assigned the trio positions as deputy mayor of San Pedro and Nueva Andalucía, and co-ordinator of the Tax Department. However, he didn't bother to tell the mayoress or her two deputies - so yet another furious row is brewing. Indeed, as CDSN went to press the mayoress, Marisol Yagüe, announced that she is replacing Sr Calleja as head of town planning and will also oversee the Tax Department herself.
FOR MÁLAGA READ GRANADA
Tour operators study move to avoid airport congestion
By Dave Jamieson
BRITAIN'S BUDGET AIRLINES ARE REPORTED TO BE STUDYING ALTERNATIVES TO MÁLAGA AIRPORT.
It has emerged at this month's World Travel Fair in London that, in an effort to avoid the congestion which affects flights at peak times, tour operators are considering Granada, Almería and Jerez as alternatives. GB Airways, which already flies from London to Málaga under franchise from British Airways, is actively studying a move to Granada, according to its chairman, Joseph Gaggero.
As many as 4.4 million Britons are expected to have travelled to Málaga by the end of this year, a figure expected to rise to 5 million by the end of 2004, and contributing to an expected general increase triggered by the opening of the Picasso Museum last month. The city of Granada is promoting itself to the travel trade as a viable alternative to Málaga, pointing out that there is wide awareness of its name, that the immediate area offers vast tourist potential, and that it is a little more than 100 kilometres and an hour from the Costa del Sol.
Meanwhile, Granada's Mayor has written to Iberia, complaining of numerous cancellations to flights in and out of the city's airport. José Torres Hurtado says he has asked for an explanation to the 'almost habitual' schedule changes from the airline's president, Fernando Conte, but has yet to receive a reply.
BENALMÁDENA TOUGHENS UP ON YOUNG DRIVERS
The 'Pay or Read' programme comes to an end
By Oliver McIntyre
FOR SEVERAL YEARS MINORS IN BENALMÁDENA HAVE HAD A MONEY-SAVING OPTION WHEN FACED WITH TRAFFIC TICKETS.
Under the town's 'Paga o Lee' ('Pay or Read') programme, instituted by the Town Hall in 1998, the young traffic offenders were given the option of avoiding fines by instead reading a book from one of the municipal libraries and submitting a book report. That option was put to an end last week when Mayor Enrique Bolín signed an edict terminating the initiative.
The unique programme, which the Town Hall says attracted the interest of other Costa towns at the time it was created, was aimed at the 're-education of minors with municipal infractions, based on special preventive measures rather than repressive ones', according to the edict. Now, however, 'we need to consider the strengthening of the regulations in order to combat the sense of impunity' that recent police data indicates has developed among young people. Since its inception in late 1998, the read-instead-of-pay option has been selected by 812 minors (696 male and 116 female) with traffic infractions, although only 486 (60 per cent) actually completed the entire process, which includes submitting a report on the chosen book. According to the Town Hall, the most common traffic infractions among young people are failure to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike and jumping traffic lights.
COMMUNITY SERVICE OPTION
At the same time as he issued the edict to repeal the 'Pay or Read' programme, the mayor reported that he has signed an agreement with the Junta de Andalucía that will, in some circumstances, allow minors to work off their traffic tickets by performing community service.
GAUCIN MAYOR UPS HIS SALARY BY 500 PER CENT
By David Eade
The PSOE group at Gaucín Town Hall has expressed its outrage after the PA mayor, Francisco Corbacho, raised his monthly pay five fold to 3,600 euros. PSOE spokeswoman, Felisa Carrasco, has accused the Mayor of irresponsibility in upping his salary by 500 per cent from 712 euros.
The rise now gives Sr Corbacho an annual income of 67,313 euros making him the second best paid mayor in the province of Málaga after Marbella. His salary is higher than or equal to those of secretaries of state or ministers in the regional government. It is higher than that of the Mayor of Málaga (66,585 euros) or the Mayor of the nearby town of Ronda (26,400 euros).
Sr Corbacho has defended his actions in awarding himself such a huge salary rise by stating that he has stopped working as the local doctor as the SAS surgery has been moved to nearby Benarrabá. The rise in pay reflects his loss of earnings as the local health service doctor. He points that his rise is 'totally legal' as it has been approved by the town council. Gaucín has a population of just 1,732 people many of whom are foreign residents. Its annual budget is 3.6 million euros and the mayor's salary accounts for more than 1 per cent of that total.
DOG SUFFER BRUTAL ATTACK
By Oliver McIntyre
The Torremolinos animal shelter Albergue Parque Animal last week picked up two dogs that had been tortured and stabbed multiple times. Both dogs were alive when they were picked up, but one died shortly afterward. The other was operated on and is recovering in the shelter's facilities.
According to the shelter, the dogs were stabbed in the face, neck and head with a sharp object about 15 centimetres long. Based on the type and number of injuries "it can be deduced that either the dogs were very docile or they knew their attackers, because the cuts on them are clean, which would be impossible with a violent dog, as it would try to defend itself," said a shelter source.
The dog that survived is a female brindle-coated greyhound. The shelter has not identified the owners of the animals, but hopes to do so in order to allow authorities to begin an investigation. Animal cruelty such as that demonstrated by the attacker or attackers can carry fines of between 3,000 and 15,000 euros, according to the shelter.
VÉLEZ MOVES TO CREATE SIX NEW GOLF COURSES
"Gil-like" development plans criticised
By Dave Jamieson
A REVISION OF URBAN BY-LAWS IN VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA WILL OPEN THE WAY FOR AS MANY AS SIX NEW GOLF COURSE IN THE MUNICIPALITY, BUT HAS BEEN CONDEMNED BY OPPOSITION PARTIES AND ECOLOGISTS.
The Town Council recommended the changes to the 1996 General Urban Ordination Plan last July, and a meeting last week confirmed they would go ahead. The vice-president of the Municipal Urban office, José Luis Sánchez Toré, described the move as 'very ambitious' and talked of 'emblematic projects' for the Axarquía. He described four of the projected new golf courses as definite, including those to be sited at Playa Fenicia, El Trapiche and in the Benajaraje-Cajiz area. Two others, at Campiñuelas and Lagos, are understood to be possibilities.
Ground has also been reserved for a possible coastal rail link from Málaga, and for urban consolidation in the Vélez - Caleta - Torre del Mar triangle. However, opposition groups at Vélez Town Hall criticised the plans as 'the same urban politics which the Gil party implemented in Marbella'. Opponents appear to be particularly concerned that the Town Hall has declared itself to be open to consideration of any large-scale project for the municipality.
ECOLOGISTS REMAIN CRITICAL
The ecologist group GENA was also critical, saying that it goes against public interests as golf courses demand water, cover designated green areas and use herbicides and fertilisers. Their spokesman, Rafael Yus, said the most serious argument was that the move would not meet a proven demand, and that the Town Hall was simply turning itself into a giant estate agent. He also pledged to "struggle to the end" against plans for a marina, proposed alongside the golf course at Playa Fenicia, which, he said, would be contrary to existing regulations and would be an ecological disaster for an area of wide biodiversity.
TORROX PLANS QUERIED
GENA has also criticised the golf course planned for Torrox. The group has written to Public Works Department at the Junta regarding construction of the facility on almost 1.3 million square metres of land at Barranco del Puerto, describing the size of the area chosen as extraordinary. They point out that, while the Torrox course will have only nine holes, some 18-hole courses, including those at nearby Añoreta in Rincón and Baviera in Vélez, make do with fewer than a million square metres each. They have also asked for clarification of plans to build houses on the site.