News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week February 26th to March 3rd 2004.
AIRPORT EASTER STRIKE THREAT
Protests against airport privatisation cause havoc
By Dave Jamieson
TRAVELLERS HEADING FOR MÁLAGA AIRPORT LAST FRIDAY FOUND THEIR WAY BLOCKED BY PROTESTERS, A GRIM FOREWARNING OF THE DELAYS THAT COULD TAKE PLACE IN THE WEEKS BEFORE EASTER.
Around 100 employees of the airport's operator, AENA, put up barriers and set fire to rubbish containers and old tyres on the approach road to the terminals, close to the San Miguel brewery, sending columns of black smoke into the air. Fire fighters extinguished the blazes within 20 minutes, while local police units were rapidly on the scene to direct traffic.
WALKING TO THE TERMINAL
Traffic on the N-340 approaching the area was disrupted for over an hour and some passengers decided to walk the distance to the terminal carrying their luggage, rather than miss their flights. Others became involved in angry confrontations with the protesters.
The action taken at Málaga is part of a continuing series of demonstrations by AENA employees, who are also planning a series of one-day strikes in protest against plans to privatise the airport management business.
STOPPAGES FOR MARCH AND APRIL
Unions say that their members at Málaga Airport will stop work on March 5, 7, 9 and 12 and on April 2, 7 and Easter Sunday, April 11, seriously affecting travel arrangements at a time when thousands of tourists arrive annually to witness the region's Holy Week processions.
A member of the workers' strike committee said that the employees will continue the series of protests, which began the previous Friday at Madrid's Barajas Airport, until their employers decide to revisit the privatisation decision. José Luis Garcia Carrasco said that the plans put the stability of future employment in danger for around 6,000 employees throughout Spain, including 80 per cent of the 370 staff members in Málaga.
At a meeting on Tuesday of this week, AENA management and the unions failed to reach an accord, and further meetings were planned for later in the week in the hope of avoiding the threatened strike actions.
SAN PEDRO CENTRE CUT OFF
Local businesses upset at falling trade
By David Eade
SAN PEDRO BUSINESS OWNERS IN THE AVENIDA MARQUÉS DEL DUERO ARE OUTRAGED THAT THE PROJECT TO BUILD AN UNDERGROUND CAR PARK HAS GROUND TO A STANDSTILL.
Whilst the Marbella Town Hall seeks a solution to the construction chaos, the bars, restaurants and shops are seeing their businesses go down the drain. Marbella Town Hall promoted the plan to build an underground car park beneath San Pedro’s main street as a project to revitalize the town. However Peter Davis who runs the restaurant ‘Jardín del Vino’ with his son Michael told Costa del Sol News:
“They’ve killed off the centre of our town.” Peter continued: “They told us in November that the project would take six months. First they proposed to build the entrance to the car park beneath the century old palms. But those palms are San Pedro so not surprisingly the local people took to the streets in protest causing the Town Hall to drop that idea.
“Finally they opted to build the entrance below the Telefónica exchange but the company pointed out that wasn’t possible either as there were thousands of telephone lines buried underneath. Now we understand that Telefónica has agreed to move the cables but seem rather reluctant to start the work. Meanwhile the Avenida is a deserted building site and the Town Hall still insists that the work will be completed within six months.”
Peter lamented: “A lot of retired people were amongst our regular clientele, they either came by taxi or their children dropped them off in the car. Now as the road is completely closed they can’t get here. In fact people come to San Pedro now, they find the main street blocked off with no diversion signs so simply drive on and ignore the town.”
METER PARKING A SOLUTION?
Peter believes the solution would be for the Town Hall to abandon the underground car park scheme and introduce meter parking instead. He said that would solve the old problem of local residents who used to park their cars in the street on a long-term basis and only move them occasionally.
The local business community are demanding that Marbella Town Hall compensates them for their losses but no offer has yet been forthcoming. Michael said: “They told us we didn’t have to pay our tax for our terrace this year but we pointed out that we’d already paid it. They didn’t offer us a refund just said they’d give us a credit next year.”
ARE THE BECKHAMS COMING TO MARBELLA?
By David Eade
Seldom a week goes by without a rumour circling the Costa del Sol that the Beckhams have been spotted house hunting and are about to move in. Now the rumours have reached fever pitch after Real Madrid footballer and England Captain David and Ex-Posh Spice Victoria were seen in Puerto Banús, Mijas and on Fuengirola beach over the weekend.
David Beckham had travelled to the Costa from Sevilla where he had been filming an international commercial for Pepsi Cola, organised by British-owned Marbella film company Widescope. David then met up with wife Victoria, their two children as well as an entourage of three bodyguards and two nannies. The Real Madrid midfielder was not in action at the weekend as he’s suspended.
Not surprisingly the supposedly private visit soon turned in to a media circus as press photographers snapped their every move. According to British reporters monitoring the couple’s visit they looked at a number of mansions some of which were in Marbella.
If the Beckhams did opt to live in Andalucía the move would be warmly welcomed by the regional government. Last week the minister for tourism and sport, Antonio Ortega, confirmed that his department had made contact with the Real Madrid player to discuss using his image to promote the region in the Chinese market.
PHONE FRAUD WARNING IN TORROX
By Dave Jamieson
Police in Torrox have warned of a fraud which is costing telephone users hundreds of euros. They have received several complaints since late January from residents who claim they have been the victims of a scam which persuades them to call a premium rate telephone number. The first, received by a local woman, told her that there was a package for her and that, to arrange collection, she should call a number beginning with 807 to confirm her identity. Other calls received have advised the recipients that they have won a telephone number lottery and should ring the same 807 number to claim the cash.
However, on calling the given number, the victims have to listen to a long list of instructions and are kept waiting for at least 30 minutes and, in some cases, almost an hour, with, of course, no parcel delivered or lottery money received. Telefónica are reported to have said that they cannot reveal the identity of the owner of the 807 premium rate number without a court order.
VICTIMS OF MUNDO MÁGICO CLOSURE WON'T HAVE TO PAY
Court orders banks to forgive loans made to customers of failed company
By Oliver McIntyre
A MADRID COURT HAS ORDERED BANKS TO FORGIVE THE LOANS THAT WERE TAKEN OUT BY CUSTOMERS TO PAY THE BENALMÁDENA-BASED DISCOUNT-HOLIDAY OUTFIT MUNDO MÁGICO FOR VACATION DEALS THAT THE FAILED COMPANY NEVER PROVIDED.
In addition, the court ruling stipulates that the banks - BBVA, Banco Santander Central Hispano, Cajamadrid and Hispamer - cannot submit negative credit reports on the Mundo Mágico customers to credit-rating agencies.
The ruling came in response to requests put before the court by the banking consumer agency Ausbanc on behalf of the consumers affected by Mundo Mágico's closure and failure to meet its commitments. Clients of the timeshare-like holiday company paid between 3,000 and 12,000 euros, up front, for five to 50 years' worth of discounted rates on hotels and holiday apartments. According to Ausbanc, many of the customers took out bank loans - arranged by Mundo Mágico - in order to make the up-front payment.
UP TO 4,000 AFFECTED
When the company closed its doors last summer, hundreds of customers came together to create the Association of Consumers Affected by Mundo Mágico (ACAMA). The association filed charges against Mundo Mágico - and eventually 13 affiliated companies and another seven 'resale' companies - accusing them of fraud and misappropriation of funds. Ausbanc estimated 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.
Prior to the Madrid court's ruling, at least some of the victims of Mundo Mágico's failure had begun to face asset-seizure proceedings from banks demanding payment on their outstanding loans.
THREE ARRESTED IN TELEPHONE ESCORT SCAM
By David Eade
Three people have been arrested by the National Police after officers moved in to close down the escort-service company Corporación Dorex. Arrested at the Fuengirola offices was the company's leader, a 45-year-old Portuguese national, along with his associates, a 24-year-old Rumanian and a 46-year-old Spaniard. Police later also raided the corporation's other two offices in Marbella and one in Torremolinos.
The company allegedly placed ads in the national and international press seeking young men to offer escort services for wealthy women. When men rang a 902 number in response to the ad, they were given a bank account number and told to deposit 189 euros under a false name in order to become a member of the 'club'. They were then given access to the company's Web site, but when they logged on they were asked to pay between 500 and 3,000 euros as a security deposit, which would be returned once they provided satisfactory services to their clients.
The men duped into the scheme were told they would meet at least 15 attractive, wealthy women a month, but they didn't meet any. Sometimes they were given a telephone number to ring and a date was made, but the women, who investigators say were actually employees of Dorex, never turned up. On other occasions the men were given vague excuses as to why the planned meetings never took place.
Investigating officers discovered around one million euros in just one of the company's accounts. Dorex employed about 50 people, some of whom it is believed were working without legal documentation. Police say they may never discover how many men were duped because, although some realised they had been conned and reported the company to the authorities, many others may be too embarrassed to come forward.
PRINCE FELIPE DELIGHTS ON MÁLAGA VISIT
Official duties bring the Royal bridegroom to the city
By Dave Jamieson
PERHAPS IT WAS BECAUSE HE HADN’T BEEN TO THE CITY FOR TWO YEARS. PERHAPS IT WAS BECAUSE OF HIS FORTHCOMING MARRIAGE. OR PERHAPS IT WAS A SHOW OF NATIONAL PATRIOTISM…
Whatever the reason, the crowds turned out in Málaga last week to welcome Prince Felipe, heir to the Spanish throne, in the city for two official engagements. His first appointment, at the new Trade Fair complex, was to attend an International Conference on open software for computers, which addressed the democratic principal that such software, and support for it, should come at no cost to end users.
In his address to delegates, the Prince emphasised the ‘cultural vocation’ of Málaga, praising the city for its new Picasso Museum, and also for its aspirations to become the European Cultural Capital in 2016. Speaking of the importance of new technologies in the province, he asked for developments in politics to include clear and viable strategies which would lead to an information society.
Accompanied by the Mayor and by the President of the Junta de Andalucía, Manuel Chaves, the Prince later met some of the 2,000 conference delegates when he is reported to have been well-informed and interested in new developments. Later, the Royal entourge moved to the city’s Municipal Museum, where Prince Felipe inaugurated the exhibition, “Spain in the 50s: a decade of creation”, where he saw numerous artefacts typifying life half a century ago.
BREAKING THE PROTOCOL
However, protocol was broken as Prince Felipe left the museum when crowds chanting his name attracted his attention, and he left the planned itinerary for an impromptu walkabout, albeit amongst tight security. Hundreds clamoured for a handshake, and even an autograph, and the Prince spent several minutes chatting to the excited gathering.
Prince Felipe, who marries Letizia Ortiz, a news presenter for TVE, on May 22 in Madrid, spent four hours in Málaga in a visit which was rated as highly successful for both him and for the city. He has been invited to return in April to inaugurate Málaga’s Film Festival but his presence has not yet been confirmed.
HAPPY HOUR IN ANTEQUERA
Accident attracts looters to free beer
News Staff Reporter
For one man, it was probably one of the worst days of his life. For many others, it was a dream come true. The story began at 9.00 one day last week when a lorry travelling from Antequera left the road and overturned in a field, scattering its load. The cause of the accident is unknown. Police quickly arrived on the scene, the driver was taken to Antequera Hospital to be treated for minor injuries, the road was cleared and the police left. Their job was done and it was up to the transport company, Luis López Rubiano S.L. of Alcalá de Henares, to clear up the mess.
However, they need not have bothered. The hundreds of cans of beer and soft drinks from the lorry’s two-ton load were lying over a wide area, and, after the departure of the authorities, proved too much of a temptation for passers-by. Drivers stopped to fill the boots of their cars with free beer, and as the news quickly spread, and a line of vehicles formed on the hard shoulder. Amazingly, there was an organised calm about the operation with orderly queues forming and everyone able to acquire at least a few cans for their trouble.
The transport company sent another lorry to pick up the spilt load, but, when it arrived five hours after the accident, there was nothing left to collect.
MORE BENEFITS FOR COSTA CAR OWNERS
Greater guarantees albeit higher costs as from February
By Oliver Mcintyre
A NEW NATIONAL LAW THAT WENT INTO EFFECT FEBRUARY 14 IS EXPECTED TO PROVIDE COSTA CAR OWNERS GREATER GUARANTEES, BUT ALSO HIGHER COSTS, WHEN THEY TAKE THEIR VEHICLE TO A GARAGE FOR MAINTENANCE OR REPAIRS.
According to the Association of Automobile Repair Establishments (Fedama), which represents roughly half of the 1,355 automotive repair shops in the province of Málaga, the new law is good for both customers and mechanics, but could mean price increases of 20 per cent or more in hourly labour rates. The increases, according to Fedama, will result from the extra expenses the shops will incur in order to comply with the new law.
The law requires garages to have a signed customer approval for each procedure or repair to be performed on the vehicle. Any change or addition to the initial estimate or work plan must be approved by the customer before the work is performed. All garages must have at least one certified professional mechanic on staff (it is estimated that some 30 per cent of existing shops in Málaga do not; at least five shops have already closed, according to Fedama). Estimates must be provided free, as long as the customer brings the car in for the repair within 12 days after receiving the estimate; if not, the shop may charge the customer a fee. In addition, customers can be charged a service fee if they fail to pick up their vehicle within three days after work is completed.
PRICES OPENLY DISPLAYED
Other stipulations of the law include the requirement that all shops openly display their prices, that they pay for the proper disposal of toxic wastes like batteries, oil and tyres, and that they guarantee parts and labour for at least three months or 2,000 kilometres after the work is performed.
The repair shops must also be registered in the Andalucía Industrial Establishments Registry. Shops failing to comply with the new law may face fines ranging from 3,000 to 600,000 euros, depending on the seriousness of the offence.
VÉLEZ TO CLOSE BAR AT EL INGENIO
Protests about noise prompt Town Hall move
By Dave Jamieson
A bar at the Vélez-Málaga shopping centre El Ingenio is to close following hundreds of complaints to police. The disco pub Chimenea has been the focus of attention of residents in the nearby El Tomillar urbanisation who have lodged over 200 formal complaints of excessive noise since the establishment opened in 2002. Vélez-Málaga Town Hall last week authorised local police officers to advise the owners of the bar of its enforced closure for their failure to observe closing times or to control noise levels, as well as failure to meet various other legal obligations of their opening licence.
A legal representative of the local residents’ association said that the main complaint had been with regard to excessive noise, caused as a result of the building’s structure which could make the music louder in neighbouring homes than in the bar itself. The Town Hall’s decision comes on the heels of last year’s fine for excessive noise on a bar in Torre del Mar from which 19 local residents each received 12,000 euros compensation.
ANDALUCÍA TO LEAD THE WAY IN ABANDONING METHADONE
Plan will set trend for Spain and Europe
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES, ISAÍAS PÉREZ SALDAÑA, HAS ANNOUNCED AN EXPERIMENTAL PLAN TO REDUCE THE CONSUMPTION OF METHADONE BY ITS DRUG DEPENDENT USERS.
Sr Saldaña made the announcement whilst visiting an old people’s home in San Roque. The minister stated that there were currently 1,300 people being prescribed methadone in the Campo de Gibraltar region whilst the total for all Andalucía exceeded 20,000.
The plan to break the use of methadone is to be pioneered in Spain ahead of the rest of Europe and the Campo de Gibraltar region will be at the forefront of the campaign. A working group to look into the problem is to be drawn up from amongst local, provincial and regional drug dependency groups who will work with academics from the University of Cádiz.
HEROIN ADDICTION GOES DOWN
The new initiative will replace a previous plan to distribute heroin in the Campo de Gibraltar region in collaboration with the University of Granada. That plan was shelved due to the lack of people addicted to taking heroin intravenously as their numbers have decreased in a dramatic manner.
This new project to abandon the use of methadone as a palliative treatment has been welcomed by the co-ordinator of ‘Alternativas’, Francisco Mena. He said that the regional government’s plan would allow the users of methadone to abandon the drug in a progressive manner.
It is intended that alongside the plan to withdraw methadone would be a programme of social, sanitary, educational and work assistance. Sr Mena added, “This is a very positive approach and is in line with an old plan drawn up by ‘Alternativas’ itself.”