News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week May 27th to June 2nd 2004.
SHOOT-OUT AT PEAK HOUR
Wanted French criminal shot outside San Pedro’s McDonald’s
COSTA DEL SOL NEWSDESK
COSTA DEL SOL NEWS REPORTER DAVID EADE WAS WITNESS TO A SHOOT-OUT NEAR EL INGENIO ROUNDABOUT WHERE AT LEAST TWO PEOPLE WERE INJURED AS POLICE ARRESTED A DANGEROUS FRENCH CRIMINAL.
David Eade gives his eyewitness report:
"Just before 14.00 as I crossed the Avenida Príncipe Asturias near the El Ingenio roundabout on the old N-340 in San Pedro de Alcántara, a series of about ten loud bangs rang out. My first thought was that it was a car backfiring but the sound and frequency was not quite right. It was gunfire.
"Within seconds a siren could be heard and a Marbella local police four-wheel drive vehicle drew up in the centre of the road beside me. Two officers got out, strapped on bulletproof vests and then drew their pistols. As they did so another car screeched to a halt yards ahead of us. A man waving an automatic pistol got out and shouted at the police. They quickly withdrew behind their car and I did an even quicker detour through La Colonia commercial centre.
"A minute later I was standing on the grass knoll outside McDonald’s at the El Ingenio roundabout. Traffic was at a standstill. Laying face down in the road just feet ahead of me was a man who police later identified as Sofian H, a 38-year-old French wanted criminal. A uniformed National Police officer stood over the man who was in his underpants with a trickle of blood running down his leg. As I glanced at the McDonald’s I saw it was full of lunchtime diners whilst a children’s party was underway in its annexe."
CRIMINAL’S COHORTS ON THE RUN
Once it became clear that the shooting was over people emerged from the cafes, bars and offices of La Colonia to gather on the grass knoll. However the afternoon’s action was not over as it soon became known that two of the criminal’s cohorts had escaped. Led by La Colonia's security guard two armed policeman in body armour carried out a search of all the premises looking for the men, one of them said to be wearing a blood stained shirt. Patrol cars raced around the El Ingenio area whilst a police helicopter hovered overhead.
UDYCO CRIME SQUAD IN ACTION
It emerged the action was carried out by the organized crime squad (Udyco) of the National Police. In an unmarked car they had been following a BMW heading in the direction of Algeciras. They were pursuing Sofian H, the subject of two Interpol detention orders for trafficking in drugs as well as being implicated in a recent seizure of 3,000 kilos of hashish.
Both vehicles turned off the old N-340 at the El Ingenio roundabout. Two men got out of the BMW and fled whilst the third, Sofian H, tried to disarm one of the policemen. Sofian H was shot in the posterior and a police officer was slightly injured after a ricochet hit him in the foot.
Three men found dead at Torreguadiaro
BY DAVID EADE
AT 7.00 ON TUESDAY MORNING THE GUARDIA CIVIL DISCOVERED THE BODIES OF THREE MEN BY THE ROADSIDE AT TORREGUADIARO IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF SAN ROQUE.
A fourth man who was in a serious condition was rushed to hospital in La Línea de la Concepción.
When Costa del Sol News arrived at the scene there were numerous Guardia Civil officers from Algeciras guarding the area. In addition, judicial police were also in attendance carrying out forensic tests.
The bodies of the men, who are believed to from North Africa, were found at km 134 on the A-7 (formerly N-340) by a local resident who raised the alarm. The zone is not an isolated one as there are a number of bars and a 24-hour petrol station nearby.
‘SMUGGLED AND SUFFOCATED’
A Guardia Civil told CDSN that one possible theory is that the four men had been smuggled from North Africa to Algeciras in a lorry and had suffocated on the journey and so were duly dumped. However, officers at the scene stressed that at this point in their investigations they had a completely open mind as to what had caused the tragedy.
50,000 Euros taken in Maro armed bank raid
By Dave Jamieson
Hooded and armed raiders have robbed the bank in Maro. The Unicaja branch near Nerja’s caves was the target for the attack last Thursday morning when two clients and an employee were threatened with a knife and a pistol. Shortly after 10.00, two robbers burst into the bank in Maro’s main street where two female customers, one elderly, were waiting. They struck the bank’s only employee present who was forced to hand over all the cash on the premises and made off with about 50,000 euros in a white Opel Kadett which was waiting outside, driven by a third member of the gang. The car was later found abandoned next to the main N340 to Motril, suggesting they had transferred to another vehicle as they fled.
The bank employee was attended by medical staff for a minor head injury, while one of the customers was treated for a nervous reaction. Numerous residents of Maro witnessed the events as the two robbers left the bank and drove off. The bank, which is the only one in the village, has twice before been the target of similar raids in recent years, and residents have complained about the lack of a police presence in Maro.
Red light for Tráfico's plan to publish names of programme
Two drivers' names made public prior to nixing of programme
By Oliver McIntyre
THE NATIONAL TRAFFIC DEPARTMENT LAUNCHED NEW PROGRAMME LAST WEEK UNDER WHICH IT SAID IT WOULD MAKE PUBLIC THE NAMES OF DRIVERS TICKETED OR ARRESTED FOR SERIOUS INFRACTIONS OR ACCIDENTS, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF A PARTICULARLY "SINGULAR NATURE" OR THAT CAUSE "PUBLIC ALARM" DUE TO THE GRAVITY OR DANGER OF THE ACT.
The next day, following protests from the Agency for the Protection of Information (APD), which challenged the legality of the plan, Tráfico did a 180-degree turn, announcing that it would not release drivers' names.
Prior to its nearly immediate turnaround, Tráfico released the names of two drivers that were ticketed for drink driving. In Spanish press reports, the drivers were identified by full name, the exact nature of the infractions described (including the drivers' blood-alcohol level), and the number plates and types of car identified. In addition, the reports included the potential fine or prison sentence the offences carried.
Tráfico now says that it will release only the initials of the drivers and a description of the infraction or accident. In backing off from its original plan, Tráfico explained: "What is of interest to this agency is explaining to the public how accidents occur," in an effort to raise public awareness and increase road safety.
Giant blaze guts Arroyo de la Miel's new water-tre
NEWS Staff Reporter
An enormous column of black smoke billowed up into the sky for hours last Wednesday afternoon, as a devastating fire gutted the facilities of Arroyo de la Miel's nearly completed new wastewater-treatment plant, causing no human casualties but hugely setting back the start date for the plant's operations.
The blaze broke out at around 17.00, apparently caused by a spark from a worker's soldering machine, according to initial investigations. The fire quickly spread due to the large amount of combustible material in the area, in particular some 5,000 cubic metres of a special type of plastic from Switzerland, which is used in the process of neutralising micro-organisms in the wastewater. The Town Hall quickly issued assurances that the dense black smoke from the burning plastic was not toxic.
Residents were evacuated from 15 homes in the Benalmar Unifamiliar urbanisation, as were the few people who were still at the Maravillas school, located a few hundred metres from the site. Around a hundred firefighters, emergency personnel and volunteers from Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Mijas responded to the fire, which was not brought fully under control until more than five hours after it started.
The total extent of damage is still being assessed, but Town Hall sources indicated that the plant, which after two years of delays was finally in the testing phase and set to begin operating after summer, could now be delayed by as much as two more years.
Tranvía fares reopen controversy in Vélez
By Dave Jamieson
The cost of using the new tranvía between Vélez-Málaga and Torre del Mar has reopened fierce debate surrounding the light transport system. Vélez Town Hall proposed last week that a one-way journey on the tranvía, presently under construction, would cost 1.30 euros, although four reduced-fare schemes would also be available. One, the 'Bono 30', would cost 30 euros and provide unlimited journeys on the tranvía, as well as the municipality's buses, for one month. The authorities believe it will benefit 80 per cent of users, and will reduce the average journey cost to 75 céntimos. There would also be a 'Bono 10', valid for 10 journeys during one month. A scheme available to young people would offer 10 journeys for eight euros, while pensioners would be able to enjoy travel at 65 centímos per journey.
The proposals have to be ratified by a full meeting of the Town Council, but already opposition councillors and local residents have pointed out that the 1.30-euro ticket to travel between Vélez and Torre represents a 60 per cent increase on the present bus fare for the same journey. The opposition Partido Popular dismissed the lower costs of 65 to 80 céntimos per journey as being available only to those who travel regularly throughout a month. Izquierdo Unida councillors also called for the fares to be lowered before the tranvía begins operating, while a residents' association in Torre del Mar condemned the "excessive" prices.
In response to the criticisms, Vélez Mayor Antonio Souvirón said that the fare structure had a double intention - to give regular users cheaper tickets, and to develop use of a quick, comfortable and ecological form of public transport. He insisted that the price structure was "very favourable" when compared with Málaga's future metro system. He added that users would save 25 minutes on the existing bus journey between the two centres.
Málaga gets ready for Mary
BY DAVE JAMIESON
MÁLAGA IS PREPARING FOR THE VISIT OF A VERY SPECIAL LADY NEXT TUESDAY. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE SHE WAS LAUNCHED IN MARCH LAST YEAR, THE QUEEN MARY 2 PRESENTLY IS SAILING THROUGH THE MEDITERRANEAN, WITH A STOP SCHEDULED IN THE PORT OF MÁLAGA NEXT WEEK.
The latest addition to Cunard’s fleet was named by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Southampton in January and made her maiden voyage to New York in April.
CONTROVERSY OVER DOCKING AT GIBRALTAR
However, her visit has not been without controversy. The world’s largest ocean liner unwittingly became involved in the dispute between Spain and Britain over the future of Gibraltar, which has recently resulted in at least eight cruise ships being refused entry to Spanish ports because they had previously docked there. In London, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office threatened legal action unless there was an immediate resolution to the dispute, and the issue featured in recent talks between the new Foreign Minister, Miguel Moratinos, and his UK counterpart, Jack Straw.
Happily, this meeting bore fruit and, last Thursday, Spain instructed its port authorities to lift the ban and ordered the previous status quo to return. However, a decision to save money in the British colony has resulted in the visit being cancelled, despite the lifting of the Spanish restriction. In January, the Gibraltar government invited tenders for a dredging operation to ensure a sufficient depth of water for the vessel to dock, but when the actual cost became known, cancelled the work.
As a result, her scheduled arrival Gibraltar at 1.30 today will be downgraded to a sail-past, as she continues east to her next ports of call, Palma de Mallorca on Friday, Barcelona on Saturday and Marseille on Sunday. Monday will be spent cruising back west along the Mediterranean.
It will be a magnificent sight to be enjoyed at close range by the city of Málaga on Tuesday where she is due to dock at 7.00. Her statistics are impressive. At 1,132 feet long, she is 113 feet longer than the original Queen Mary, twice as long as the Washington Monument is tall, 147 feet longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower, and only 117 feet shorter than the Empire State Building is tall. Put 41 London double decker buses nose-to-tail for her length, and imagine a 23 storey building for her height above the water line. Her whistle is audible for ten miles, her top speed is 30 knots, and she carries 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew on 17 decks served by ten restaurants.
In charge of the first new transatlantic liner for 35 years is Captain Ronald Warwick, formerly senior master of the QE2. He is continuing a family tradition by following in the footsteps of his late father, Commodore W.E. Warwick, the first master of the QE2, whose own father in turn was master of the original Queen Mary, aboard which he served as a seaman in the 1960s.
The Queen Mary 2 departure is scheduled for 19.00, after which she heads for Cádiz and Lisbon, before arriving home at Southampton on Saturday, June 4. However, she will be docking in Málaga twice again this summer, first during her return voyage from the Olympics in Athens on Monday, September 6, and then again during another Mediterranean cruise on Wednesday, October 21.
Andalucía passes no-extraordinary-measures medical
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
RESIDENTS OF ANDALUCÍA HAVE A NEW RIGHT TO SIGN A LEGALLY-BINDING DECLARATION OF THEIR DESIRE THAT NO EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES BE TAKEN TO PROLONG THEIR LIFE IN THE EVENT OF EXTREME, IRREVERSIBLE INJURY OR ILLNESS THAT LEAVES THEM UNABLE TO VOICE THEIR WISHES AT THE TIME OF TREATMENT.
The regional government last week approved the ‘Registro de Voluntades Vitales Anticipadas’, a registry in which residents can define what life-saving or life-sustaining treatments or interventions they do or do not want undertaken in given medical situations. It also allows people to state if they want to donate their organs after death. The declaration in the registry can be changed or cancelled by the individual at any time.
The ability for people to declare in advance their wishes that no extraordinary measures be taken to keep them alive in a terminal situation serves as a great “liberation” to family members and doctors, said María Jesús Montero, head of the Junta’s Health Department. Failing such a pre-signed declaration, the patient’s family or medical caregivers are often left toiling with the decision of what or how much should be done to prolong the patient’s life, she said.
NOT THE SAME AS EUTHANASIA
The decision to refrain from using certain measures to keep a terminally ill patient alive – such as respirators, aggressive surgeries or intravenous feeding – is not the same as euthanasia. Euthanasia involves taking proactive steps to end the life of a patient, while the withholding of invasive life-sustaining procedures allows the natural death of the patient to take its course.
Prior to last week’s passage of the new no-extraordinary-measures law, people wanting to pre-declare their treatment wishes had to do so in front of a notary with witnesses, and even then the declaration served as more of a moral than a legal obligation for doctors or family members. Signing on to the new registry requires no notary or witnesses and is legally binding. Approximately 2,000 people a year enter terminally ill situations in Andalucía, according to Sra Montero.
More information on how to sign on to the registry is available from the Junta’s Salud Responde line on 902 505 060, and the application form will soon be available at www.juntadeandalucia.es/salud.
Bolín wants three 20-storey buildings in Arroyo
NEWS Staff Reporter
Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín last week announced his urban-planning vision for Arroyo de la Miel, the centrepiece of which would be the creation of three new 20-storey buildings in the vicinity of the Cercanías train station. The buildings would house office and commercial space, municipal offices and cultural facilities, as well as flats. One would sit on the site of existing Casa de la Cultura, which would be razed, another would be located near the Teleférico cable-car station and the third on a property across from the Inmaculada church. According to Mayor Bolín, the buildings “would be the economic engine that makes possible the transformation of Arroyo de la Miel into a pleasant town centre, filled with open spaces and without traffic problems.”
The money brought in by the buildings would help finance the creation of pedestrian-only zones and the construction of the new municipal theatre, among other things, he said.
The opposition Izquierda Unida party quickly and sharply criticised the Mayor’s plan for the large buildings, saying it was a “declaration of war and, as such, will face a resounding political and public response.” The party lambasted the proposed buildings as a gross case of real estate speculation on the part of the Mayor and his governing team. The IU said it plans to rally public opposition to the proposal, and that it may request that the Junta de Andalucía intervene to block the project from moving forward.
Clean air on the horizon
BY JAMES MACHIN
RESIDENTS WHO LIVE AROUND THE INDUSTRIAL ZONE IN THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR HAVE BEEN CONCERNED FOR MANY YEARS ABOUT THE ATMOSPHERIC POLLUTION EMITTED BY THE REFINERY AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS IN THE AREA.
Their particular concern is its effect on their health. However, in spite of the abnormally high incidence of chronic respiratory problems and cancer in the area, industry and the authorities maintain that emissions are within safety and legal limits.
The affected communities have until now been powerless to refute industries stance, due to the prohibitive cost of taking independent air samples. This situation is about to change however, with the creation of the 'Bay Bucket Brigade'. (La Brigada Cubo de la Bahia) The "Bucket Brigade" movement came into being as a result of the development of an easy to use air sampling device housed inside a 5 gallon plastic bucket. The "Bucket" was developed in Northern California in 1995 by an environmental engineering firm in order to simplify and reduce the cost of testing toxic gases in the air.
Though the equipment is low cost (70 dollars) the results it produces are acceptable in a court of law, and thus community groups are empowered. The leader of the international 'Bucket' movement is San Francisco based Denny Larsen. Denny is presently leading communities in S. Africa, UK and India as well as numerous communities throughout the USA. Denny visited the 'Campo de Gibraltar' last October to make an initial assessment of the situation and he was back last week to hold 'bucket' fabrication workshops and to train residents in the sampling technique.
DETERMINING EXCESS POLLUTION
The intention of the Bay Bucket Brigade' is to determine if industry in the area is polluting the atmosphere in excess of legal limits. Once the group is armed with its own data from the 'Bucket' air sampling, and with information about the health effects of the polluting chemicals, they believe that a new era of negotiations with polluters will begin.
The launch of the 'Bay Bucket Brigade' initiative occurred in the same week as the publication of a report on 'The Highest Mortality Areas in Spain' produced by an international team from universities and research centres. The report says: "Mapping of the highest risk areas showed a striking geographical clustering in the south western region of the country. This region, comprising only 8 per cent of the Spanish population, accounts for about one third (2884 deaths) of the total excess mortality". The region houses a high percentage of Spain's oil refining capacity- The 'Bay Bucket Brigade' is determined to find out, once and for all, the truth about emissions from these plants.
Better medical services
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Health Department at Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall has announced plans to request that the Junta de Andalucía upgrade the town’s healthcare classification from level 1 to level 2, which would provide the municipality with a wider array of medical services at the local health centre. Citing a radical increase in the town’s registered population in recent years – from 9,125 in 1985 to today’s 27,660 – the Town Hall says increased health services are both warranted and necessary.
The current level 1 classification means the local health services include only primary care, nursing, family medicine paediatrics and emergency attention. Upgrading to level 2 would provide gynaecology, dentistry and mental health. Noting that the town’s demographics include a high percentage of young couples, along with a corresponding high birth rate, the Town Hall says that services geared toward women, maternity and children are of particular importance. It estimates that there are currently around 500 pregnant women in the town. And in addition to the need, the Town Hall says the new municipal health centre currently under construction has the capacity to house the additional health services.