News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week July 8th to July 14th 2004.
POWER CUTS SPARK GOVERNMENT ACTION
Endesa-Sevillana in dire straits as government proposes creating a public company.
BY DAVID EADE
AS THE RECENT HEAT WAVE SWEPT ACROSS ANDALUCÍA HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WERE LEFT WITHOUT POWER FOR SEVERAL DAYS DUE TO SEVERE POWER CUTS BY ENDESA-SEVILLANA.
Those worst affected were in Sevilla where more than 200,000 clients of Endesa-Sevillana had three days of cuts. Another 9,000 people were hit in Granada along with 3,000 in Huelva plus smaller cuts on the Costa del Sol.
Regional government in Sevilla has reacted with indignation laying the blame firmly at the door of the power conglomerate Endesa-Sevillana. Endesa-Sevillana says its system was overloaded by the sudden heat wave. A spokesperson for the European Commission has backed that view describing the 45-degree temperatures in western Andalucía as ‘exceptional’. However, regional government is totally unimpressed with this line of defence saying the breakdown in the system is due to ‘a significant lack of investment’.
Regional government is turning up the heat on Endesa-Sevillana by ordering a study on whether the State should take over the distribution of the electricity and gas supply. At present Endesa produces the power, which is then sold to homes and businesses by its sister company Sevillana.
The government is looking to EU directives that seek to liberalise energy supplies as a framework for taking action against Endesa-Sevillana. One possibility is that a public company would be created to guarantee the continuity and security of the electrical supply by developing and enlarging the network.
BENALMÁDENA AND BANÚS HIT
Arroyo de la Miel was the first location on the Costa del Sol to be hit by a power cut. Six thousand users in the central area were without light for two hours from 21.30 after a break in an underground 20,000 watts medium tension cable. The fault was caused by the deterioration to the protective layer of a cable at the junction of the Avenida de la Constitución and Avenida de la Estación, which unfortunately is a zone packed with bars and restaurants that were plunged in to darkness.
On the same day at 22.30 there was also a blackout in Puerto Banús, which lasted for six and a half hours. The fault this time was in a transformer that affected between 200 and 300 users in the port, the majority of them restaurants, bars and shops that were forced to close their doors to the throngs of tourists and visitors. Another shorter cut in power was also suffered by 1,900 homes on the outskirts of Ronda between 15.20 and 16.00.
Terrorist watch on operation ‘paso’
Intelligence fears al-Qa’ida will move terrorists and materials to Spain
BY DAVID EADE
THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICE OF THE GUARDIA CIVIL IS MAINTAINING A HIGH-LEVEL SECURITY WATCH ON THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANTS TRAVELLING TO AND FROM NORTH AFRICA THIS SUMMER DURING OPERATION ‘PASO DEL ESTRECHO’.
The ‘Paso’ sees the majority of immigrants from Morocco, Algeria and other North African countries, who legally work in Europe, crossing the Straits of Gibraltar between June and September for their summer vacations. The port of Algeciras, which copes with the bulk of this traffic, has ran 602 sailings carrying 16,560 vehicles and 79,005 passengers since the operation began on June 15.
The intelligence service fears that Islamic terrorist groups, including those with links to al-Qa’ida, will use this mass migration of people to move terrorists, links and materials to Spain. The terrorist responsible for the Casablanca bombings, believed to be the number four in al-Qa’ida, has declared Spain as a target due to its support of the Iraq War and its position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A special watch is being kept on sections of the Islamic community with links to the Tabligh al Dawa movement. Cells have been found in Madrid, Aragón, Cataluña, La Rioja, Navarra, Murcia, Valencia and Andalucía. Intelligence offers have discovered activists falsifying documents, transporting and hiding terrorists as well as sending electronic messages to Algeria and Chechnya.
There is also deemed to be a high security risk in the Spanish enclave of Melilla due to the whipping up of support by Islamic fundamentalist groups in Morocco. This had been evident after demonstrations in support of the spiritual leader Mohamed Fezzni, a follower of the Jihad in Ceuta and Melilla.
RUSSIAN NAVY TO PATROL THE STRAITS
Following the recent NATO conference in Istanbul the alliance has agreed that Russian naval vessels should participate in operation ‘Active Endeavour’. The operation involves NATO vessels patrolling the Mediterranean and Straits of Gibraltar in order to prevent terrorist attacks or the movement of materials.
To date the navies of Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Turkey, the UK and USA have all taken part in ‘Active Endeavour’. No non-NATO country has up till now been invited to join in. However, not only will Russia now be taking part but an invitation has also been extended to Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuckma, for his country’s navy to patrol the Med.
Fifteen Lithuanians arrested for Briton’s kidnap
By David Eade
Police in Alicante and Almería have arrested 15 Lithuanians for their alleged part in the kidnap of British industrialist, Frank C, from his home in Benahavís in March of this year.
The Costa del Sol News reported at the time that the Briton was kidnapped whilst driving his Bentley on the Heredia de Benahavís urbanization on which he lived. Between four and six men were laying in wait as he headed for a nearby golf course and kidnapped him at gunpoint then fled in two cars.
The British businessman was held for nine days and then released on the Almería coast after his family paid a ransom of 500,000 euros. This is substantially less than the 3 million euros that it is believed that the kidnappers were originally demanding.
The investigations were led by officers of the National Police Drugs and Organised Crime Squad (Udyco) on the Costa del Sol. They worked in co-operation with Udyco officers in Almería and Alicante as well as a central unit in Madrid.
The Lithuanian gang had the entire infrastructure required to carry out a successful kidnapping. Their main base was in Alicante where police made the first arrests at a house in the Virgen del Remedio area after making a forced entry to the property. Further arrests were then made the following day in Almería. The Alicante court has transferred the detainees to the jurisdiction of the Marbella court, which will hear the case against them.
FOUR SOTOGRANDE KIDNAPPERS IMPRISONED
As reported in last week’s CDSN the Guardia Civil arrested on June 27 four North Africans wanted for kidnapping a Moroccan at his Sotogrande home on June 19. They were confronted by officers at the McDonald’s fast food restaurant at the Palmones industrial estate in Los Barrios as they attempted to kidnap another member of his family.
Their target was the kidnapped man’s nephew who was acting as the mediator between the family and the kidnappers. In the police action that followed, including a high-speed car chase, officers arrested four members of the gang who have now been detained in prison by the Algeciras court.
Anger as nuclear sub docks in Gibraltar
USS Albany may be undergoing repairs
By David Eade
The United States Navy’s Los Angeles class nuclear submarine, USS Albany (SSN-753), docked at Gibraltar’s naval dockyard last Thursday. It’s crew celebrated the annual US holiday of the ‘Fourth of July’ on the Rock and as the Costa del Sol News went to press the vessel was still in dock.
The arrival of yet another nuclear submarine in Gibraltar, the third in recent months, has caused an outcry amongst ecologists both in Spain and on the Rock itself. The spokesperson for Ecologistas en Acción in the Campo de Gibraltar, Antonio Muñoz, said this type of submarine had been used in the Iraq war and carried nuclear weapons.
The ecologists have called on the Spanish government to protest to the government of Gibraltar about the continuous docking of nuclear submarines at the naval dockyard. As the stay of the USS Albany continued Sr Muñoz voiced his suspicions that the submarine was not making a courtesy call or taking on provisions but had in fact broken down. He said he believed it was possible that they were working on the hull of the submarine below the water level, which could explain why two small tenders were tied alongside.
Vélez sanitation strike smells like trouble
NEWS Staff Reporter
Hundreds of tons of rubbish have accumulated on the streets of Vélez-Málaga since workers at the Urbaser sanitation company went on indefinite strike last Friday. By Tuesday mounds of refuse, much of it decomposing organic matter from homes, bars and restaurants, had begun to take on a pungent odour, giving the Town Hall the possibility of intervening on public health grounds. As Town Hall representatives were attempting to re-start negotiations with the workers, the provincial Public Health delegate from the Junta de Andalucía, María Antigua Escalera, was called in to inspect the situation on the streets. Her initial assessment was that the accumulation of rubbish had not yet reached a level at which it posed a public health risk. Nonetheless, with the town generating an average of 90 tons of rubbish a day, Mayor Souvirón was adamant that timely intervention might be necessary. “I will not wait until there is a health risk before intervening,” he said.
The strike began following the failure of workers and Urbaser to come to terms on a collective labour agreement. The workers are seeking higher pay, a 35-hour, Monday-to-Saturday working week, and guaranteed staffing levels. Urbaser and the Town Hall have called the demands unrealistic, saying they represent a total cost of 700,000 euros a year.
Spain to get French-style point system for driver'
Authorities aim to improve road safety
By Oliver McIntyre
SPAIN'S HOME OFFICE ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK THAT IN THE NEAR FUTURE IT PLANS TO INTRODUCE A NEW POINT SYSTEM FOR DRIVER'S LICENCES, SIMILAR TO THE ONE CURRENTLY USED IN FRANCE.
Licences will have a credit of 12 points (reduced to six or eight points for novices), and drivers who commit infractions categorised as 'serious' or 'very serious' will have points removed from their licence. Talking on a mobile phone, failure to use a seat belt and not wearing a helmet on a motorbike, which are currently minor infractions, will be added to the list of serious infractions when the point system takes effect.
Once a driver has lost all 12 points, the licence will be suspended for a year and the driver will have to retake the written and practical driving exams, as well as attend a traffic course, before getting a new licence. Drivers who lose some, but not all, of the 12 points and then go two or three years without any infractions will gain back the original 12 points. Or, by taking a traffic course at their own expense, drivers can regain four points on a licence that has lost some of the original 12 points.
According to Home Office Minister José Antonio Alonso, the new point system, along with other measures such as permanent radar controls and an increase of the minimum age for riding scooters and motorbikes, is aimed at reducing traffic deaths by 40 per cent in the next five years. Traffic accidents currently represent the greatest cause of non-natural death in Spain and the greatest overall cause of death among 18- to 25-year-olds, he said.
While the new point-system licences may take as much as a year to implement, authorities are also taking more immediate measures to increase safety on the roads during the summer months. The Traffic Authority announced last week that alcohol checkpoints and speeding controls will be doubled during the months of July and August. From July 12 to July 31 alone, 250,000 drivers - an average of one in every 20 - will be tested for alcohol, according to Tráfico.
Eastern costa suffering guardia civil shortage
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE EASTERN COSTA, INCLUDING RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA AND TOWNS LIKE TORROX, ALGARROBO AND NERJA, IS FACING A SHORTAGE OF GUARDIA CIVIL OFFICERS, ACCORDING TO THE UNIFIED GUARDIA CIVIL ASSOCIATION (AUGC).
The lack of sufficient personnel in the face of growing populations affects effectiveness as well as morale, says AUGC.
In Rincón de la Victoria, five of the force’s 35 officers are on long-term inactive duty, says AUGC, while the recent arrival of four temporary officers will be more than offset by the departure of seven others who will soon be off to fill their permanent posts elsewhere.
Rather than being increased for the busier summer months, the Rincón force – which also patrols Totalán, Moclinejo and Macharaviaya – will actually be reduced, according to AUGC. It says that in Rincón itself only one or two patrol cars per shift will be on the streets, while the minimum should be three.
NERJA AWAITS MORE OFFICERS
Meanwhile, Nerja is awaiting the arrival of four officers from País Vasco, but is already down in number with the arrival of seven temporary officers to replace eight outgoing ones, and with three members of the permanent force on long-term inactive duty.
In Torrox and Algorrobo, says AUGC, officers find themselves forced to trade amongst themselves and the officers of other small towns like Cómpeta in order to maintain more than a single patrol car in each area per shift. According to the association, insufficient staffing at Guardia Civil posts is a problem in other areas of the province of Málaga, as well, but the Axarquía and its coast suffer the greatest lack.
Top brass at the Guardia Civil say that forces will be gradually increased in the Axarquía area. They recognise that growing populations and wealth on the eastern Costa mean more – or new types of – crime, and say that studies are being carried out to identify the best strategies for addressing the situation.
Mijas plans new marina in La Cala
By Oliver McIntyre
Mijas Town Hall last week provided further details regarding the proposed La Cala marina that is included in the draft version of the municipality’s new town planning ordinance (PGOU). The Town Hall says the plan, based on a study and proposal from an investor group interested in building the marina, calls for 2,000 slips that would help address “a deficit of 4,000 moorage spaces along the Málaga coast, according to the Andalucía Port Authority.”
The marina would be located “east of La Cala, in a rocky area where there is practically no beach,” according to the Town Hall. It says the investor group’s study indicates that with the proper measures, the creation of the marina “would improve the stability of the adjacent beaches,” increasing the amount of sand on them.
The proposal calls for a marina with 358,000 square metres of sheltered water area plus a 191,000-square-metre onshore service area and 100,000 square metres of commercial space. It also provides for improved road access to the area, including routes from both eastbound and westbound A-7 (the old N-340).
There has been no indication of the proposed timeline for the project or what additional bureaucratic steps are necessary for it to move forward. For now, the Town Hall plans further technical and environmental studies, as well as an archaeological survey.
Málaga tops language tourism market
25,000 foreign students learnt Spanish in Málaga in 2003
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
APPARENTLY THE COSTA IS NOT JUST A DESTINATION FOR FUN IN THE SUN – AT LEAST NOT IN THE CITY OF MÁLAGA.
Last year 25,000 foreign visitors came to the city to attend Spanish language courses at its 22 private language schools, according to the Costa del Sol Tourism Board, which cites data from the Association of Spanish Centres in Málaga (ACEM). Added to that figure are the students that choose to study Spanish at the University of Málaga, which has been offering such courses for foreigners for over 40 years. In all, according to the Tourism Board report, Málaga is now the top Spanish city for ‘language tourism’, outstripping such traditional stalwarts as Salamanca.
‘COSTA DEL ESPAÑOL’
Costa Spanish courses are not limited to the capital city. Local governments of some of the more tourism-heavy towns along the coast offer their own Spanish-for-foreigners courses, like those provided by Mijas’ Universidad Popular or Benalmádena Town Hall, among others. And there are private language schools in Costa towns as well. One new school – the 60-student Málaga Olé – has just opened its doors in the Los Álamos area of Torremolinos, offering housing (with families or in apartments), field trips and other activities to go along with the formal language studies. Whether in Málaga or in the resort towns along the coast, for many tourists this summer the sunshine destination may be better described as the ‘Costa del Español’.
Maro coastal protection underway
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía’s provincial Environment delegate for Málaga, Ignacio Trillo, last week inaugurated this year’s beach-access service at El Cañuelo beach in Nerja’s Maro-Cerro Gordo nature park. Like last year, the service provides beach-goers with transportation in four-wheel-drive vehicles from the coastal highway down to the beach at the bottom of the cliffs. This year, however, the service is being operated by a private company that won the concession contract, and costs users one euro.
The beach-access service comes as part of the Junta’s overall strategy to protect and restore the marine area of Maro-Cerro Gordo, which last year was declared a ‘special protection’ zone, like Almería’s Cabo de Gata-Níjar. Keeping cars from accessing the beach is just a first step. At last week’s launch of the service for this summer, Sr Trillo also kicked off the ‘We like it natural, we like it clean’ campaign, which includes providing beach-goers a free rubbish bag and a cone for disposing of cigarette ends.
Bigger plans with longer-term impact are also underway
The Junta has earmarked 1.3 million euros for clean-up, restoration and investigation work at Maro-Cerro Gordo this year, including the installation of artificial reefs to promote the regeneration of marine flora and fauna in the zone. The University of Málaga has collaborated on a survey of the marine plants in the area and a team of professional divers is working on a similar study, including both plant and animal life. Of the 1,850 hectares included in the Maro-Cerro Gordo ‘special protection’ zone, about 1,450 hectares cover marine areas. As such, the Junta is devoting just as much effort to the underwater ecosystems as it would to an on-land environment, said Sr Trillo.
Practise your golf in Estepona
BY DAVID EADE
GOOD NEWS FOR GOLFERS OR WOULD-BE GOLFERS IN ESTEPONA. THE TOWN HALL IS TO ISSUE A CONTRACT IN SEPTEMBER OR OCTOBER FOR A NEW NINE-HOLE PRACTICE GOLF COURSE FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO LEARN THE SPORT OR IMPROVE THEIR GAME.
The Mayor, Antonio Barrientos, said the Town Hall and the club Estebbuna, were looking for a 30,000 square metre site on which to set up the special golf practice kit.
It is understood that the municipality and the club have found two sites that would be suitable but are not announcing their location until they decide which is the best one for practicing golf. However a final decision is expected to be taken by October at the latest.
The councillor for sports, Miguel Escarcena, stated that the golf scheme was just one of many to improve the sports facilities for the residents of the municipality. He added that the international sports centre had now progressed and the architect Salvador Moreno Peralta was now working on plans for the project.
GOLF COURSE ISSUE IN RONDA
José Cosme, the new provincial delegate for tourism, has stated that the regional government will only approve new golf courses that are sustainable. Thus courses can only be built if they comply with the town planning laws, respect the environment and have sufficient water resources.
With regard to the controversy over plans to build two golf courses in the Serranía de Ronda, Sr Cosme said that the final word would be left to the Hydrographic Confederation of the South. It would decide whether the water aquifers at Los Merinos that currently meet the needs of 10,000 people could also cope with a golf course and 500 more homes.
Sr Cosme said the solution might be for Ronda to be allowed to build only one golf course.