News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
If you are interested in the news and you want to express your opinion you may do so on our notice board!
Week Nomvember 4th to November 10th 2004.
MÁLAGA’S LOTTERY FRAUD
Primitiva lottery scam gets worldwide attention
By Dave Jamieson
TWENTY THREE GANGS DEDICATED TO AN INTERNATIONAL LOTTERY FRAUD HAVE BEEN BROKEN UP IN MÁLAGA DURING 2004, TURNING THE COSTA DEL SOL CITY INTO ONE OF THE WORLD’S HOTSPOTS FOR LOTTERY SCAMS.
Police further revealed that the number of gangs broken up equals the number of detentions in the previous three years. These gangs, mainly consisting of Nigerians, send out apparently authentic letters and certificates advising the recipient that he or she has won a substantial sum of cash – up to 600,000 euros - in Spain’s La Primitiva lottery draw.
Selected individuals are told that, to obtain their prize, they should forward a sum of around 15 per cent of the winnings to cover costs and local taxes, after which the money will be forwarded to them.
The promised windfall never materialises, and Málaga’s police have reported receiving a hundred enquiries during the past year about such scams from Interpol, consulates and banks. The letters are being sent out around the world by ordinary post, by e-mail and by fax, and are received by businesses and private individuals.
Victims are apparently identified from the Internet and from telephone directories, with letters posted out from Málaga advising them of their surprise win on La Primitiva as part of an ‘international promotion’ of the lottery.
Local police have intercepted such letters en route to various countries in Europe, Japan, China, Australia and the U.S. Police sources suggest that the groups are spreading their bases along the coast, but say that none of those detained remains behind bars, all having been freed pending court appearances.
The majority of the groups broken up in Málaga were based in the areas of Calle La Unión and Palma-Palmilla.
WINTER FUEL ALLOWANCE FIASCO
By David Eade
AS REPORTED IN LAST WEEK’S COSTA DEL SOL NEWS ALTHOUGH THE MAJORITY OF BRITISH PENSIONERS LIVING OVERSEAS ARE DENIED THE WINTER FUEL ALLOWANCE OTHERS ARE RECEIVING THE PAYMENTS DUE TO A LOOPHOLE IN THE REGULATIONS.
The loophole was brought to light by the Euro-sceptic Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, Sir Teddy Taylor. He told Costa del Sol News: “I have to say I think the situation is absolutely ridiculous because of course we are now obliged to pay the Winter Fuel Allowance to EU residents in the overseas territories of the EU which means that people get it in Guadeloupe, Martinique and the Azores where there is sunshine all the time, but not if they live in Iceland or the north of Canada.”
With regard to those pensioners who have retired to mainland Europe Sir Teddy said: “In so far as Portugal and Spain are concerned because they are in the EU their rights are of course automatic. It is a ridiculous situation but of course it is one of the consequences of our membership which I think you will know I have opposed for many years by voting against all the Treaties.”
The loophole came to light in a written reply to a question raised by Sir Teddy with Malcolm Wicks MP, the Minister at the Department of Work and Pensions that is recorded in Hansard on October 21. Sir Teddy had asked why British residents of Guadeloupe, Martinique and the Azores received the winter fuel payment when they lived in warm zones.
The Minister replied: “Guadeloupe and Martinique are overseas 'Départements' of France and the Azores is a Portuguese island. As such all are treated as constituents of the European Union. Eligible people living in these regions can continue to receive a winter fuel payment if they satisfy the qualifying criteria. We are not able to provide the annual cost of these payments as data are held on a national basis. For winter 2003–04 there were 3,797 payments made to eligible people living in France at a cost of £603,500 and 257 to eligible people living in Portugal at a cost of £42,500. No assessment has been made of temperature levels in these areas.”
The term ‘qualifying criteria’ is the key words and as reported in the CDSN last week it requires making an application in the UK during the annual qualifying week. However because it is a loophole in the British government’s policy not to pay the allowance to its pensioners overseas the Department of Work and Pensions is reluctant to admit that it exists although the minister’s answer proves otherwise.
Vaccination against 'blue tongue' has started
Hundreds of fish die after fumigation campaign
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT'S MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE HAS STARTED A VACCINATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE CATARRHAL 'BLUE TONGUE' LIVESTOCK VIRUS IN JIMENA DE LA FRONTERA, WHERE THE FIRST OUTBREAK WAS REPORTED AT THE LOS ANGELES DAIRY FARM OVER TWO WEEKS AGO.
However, the first animals to receive the treatment were sheep, not cattle at the El Polvorín farm. As reported last week in CDSN, the first fatal victims of blue tongue had been sheep in the Jimena and wider Campo de Gibraltar area. All of the farm's sheep aged over one month that were clear of the disease were vaccinated.
Lourdes Bordallo, the veterinary officer of the regional agriculture office, confirmed that 13,000 doses of the anti-blue tongue jab were being allocated to cattle, sheep and goat farms in the region. Although the vaccinations started last Friday, they were then halted to Tuesday because of the holiday weekend.
The regional government's delegate in Málaga province, José Luis Marcos, has stated that in that province the blue tongue outbreak was "controlled and in a state of solution." He said that vaccinations had started and 62 infected sheep had been destroyed at four farms in Coín and Tolox.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECT
Meanwhile, another attempt to halt the spread of the 'blue tongue' virus is being blamed for an ecological disaster. Hundreds of fish have died in the Hozgarganta River in Jimena, allegedly because of the toxic products used to fumigate the zone against the mosquito that carries the virus. The environmental group 'Ecologistas en Acción' said the product used for the fumigation was very toxic in water and had been absorbed by the fish. It has called on the Junta's Ministry of Agriculture to take measures to ensure no harm is caused to aquatic life.
BLUE TONGUE WEB SITE
At a national level, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has allocated a page on its Web site (www.mapa.es) to information on the spread of blue tongue in Spain and the measures being taken to control it.
Plans to restart work at Frigiliana quarry opposed
By Dave Jamieson
Ecologists have raised objections to the reopening of a quarry near Frigiliana. The group Gena says that plans by the mining company Cruz del Pinto to start work on the site at the Chillar River, which lies within the Tejeda and Almijara natural park, fall foul of a number of laws. They point to, amongst others, a 1999 decree which prohibits new mining projects and the extension of existing work within the park, and say that such an operation would cause atmospheric pollution, acoustic contamination and adverse effects on protected flora and fauna ecosystems that include some rare species.
Gena says that an inspection by technicians working for the water authority Confederación Hidrográfica del Sur gave a favourable response to the mining company's request for an extraction and treatment plant, but that they do not have the authorisation to award such permissions. Citing the potential damage and environmental impact on the natural park, Gena has asked the Environment Department of the province of Málaga to intercede and stop the company from mining in the area.
Security staff blackade Málaga airport
Demonstration turns violent as workers clash with police
By Dave Jamieson
A PROTEST MARCH DISRUPTED ACCESS TO MÁLAGA AIRPORT LAST WEDNESDAY AND REPORTEDLY LEFT 12 PEOPLE INJURED.
The demonstration by security staff from across the province blocked vehicular access for about two hours, during which time travellers had to walk the last stretch to the departure terminal, carrying their luggage. The marchers, who numbered 1,000 according to organisers but just 150 according to the authorities, clashed with National Police officers while attempting to hand out informative leaflets at the airport.
A representative of the UGT trade union, Isidoro Martínez, later alleged that one protestor had to be given six stitches to a head wound, while another eleven suffered bruising on their arms, shoulders and backs, although the claims were rejected by police sources.
The demonstrators represented 4,000 security workers in the province of Málaga who are asking for a six per cent raise in their base salaries, to 720 euros per month, while employers are offering just 2.5 per cent. Workers are also asking for a 35-hour week, whereas bosses want to increase the monthly hours from 162 to 166. In addition, the workers are demanding a danger payment of more than 120 euros when asked to carry arms.
MORE PROTESTS PLANNED
A representative of the CC.OO trade union, Manuel Quero, said that Málaga's airport had been targeted because it was the principal employer of private security staff in the province. He added that further action, part of a national campaign, was planned for November and would create security problems in public and private places as well as leaving some cash points and banks without cash.
Nerja golf signing
Junta to decide location of medical centre
NEWS Staff Reporter
In the weeks since the Junta de Andalucía announced its plans to build a diagnostic and treatment medical centre (CARE) to serve the Guadalhorce Valley, numerous towns have been lobbying to be chosen as the site for the new centre. In some cases, the mayors of several towns have banded together in support of a particular location. For example, the socialist PSOE mayors of Yunquera, Casarabonela, Ardales, Álora and Cártama have joined forces to lobby for the centre to be sited in Cártama.
The town is one of four that have offered the necessary land and are currently under consideration as possible locations for the CARE. The others are Coín, Alhaurín el Grande and Alhaurín de la Torre. Although the Junta's Health Delegation for Málaga says other offers could be considered if put forth, most observers believe it is relatively certain that the centre will be built in one of these four towns. The Health Delegation has indicated that it intends to select the location by yearend so that construction can begin in the new year, with a completion date sometime in 2007.
Benalmádena approves amended marina expansion
Restaurants, bars and shops removed from plan
By Oliver McIntyre
THE BENALMÁDENA TOWN COUNCIL LAST WEEK APPROVED A NEW VERSION OF THE MARINA EXPANSION PLAN THAT HAS SPENT THE LAST EIGHT YEARS LANGUISHING IN BUREAUCRATIC LIMBO, REPEATEDLY DENIED APPROVAL BY THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA'S URBAN PLANNING DEPARTMENT.
The new version includes changes that, according to the mayor's team, address the Junta's previous concerns, including the elimination of a commercial zone that was originally included in the plan. Under the new scheme, the area that was to house shops and nightlife establishments - as well as an opera house - will instead be dedicated to marina services and boat-crew facilities.
The mayor's team says the removal of the commercial zone from the plan also means that the current road access to the marina - including the new underpass - will be sufficient to handle the traffic generated by the expansion. Access roads were another of the Junta's sticking points when it denied the project in the past. The Town Hall attempted to create a new access road along Arroyo Saltillo, which sits on the Torremolinos border, but the plan has thus far been thwarted by opposition from Torremolinos Town Hall.
IT'S 'CAMOUFLAGE', SAYS OPPOSITION
The mayor's team says that if a solution to the access-road situation can be found in the future, the marina-services area could potentially be converted to a commercial zone as originally planned. The opposition PSOE and Izquierda Unida parties at the Town Hall, which both voted against the new version of the plan, view the changes with suspicion, saying they are merely a ploy to 'camouflage' the commercial zone in order to gain Junta approval. That approval is in fact the next necessary step for the project - the new version of the plan must now be submitted to the Junta's Urban Planning Department for review.
Ronda golf course gets provisional go-ahead
News Staff Reporter
The mayor of Ronda, Antonio María Lara, has signed a provisional agreement giving the go-ahead to the controversial golf course planned for La Parchite. The document will not become valid until it has been ratified by a full council meeting after a 20-day public comment period.
The planned development will cover 1,687,000 square metres of land, including an 18-hole golf course, a five-star hotel plus 175 homes. The company behind the scheme, La Parchite SL, is investing 20 million euros in the project and the Town Hall will receive three million euros when the agreement is finalised.
Protests can still be expected from residents and environmental groups who fear the effects the golf course developments planned for Ronda will have on the local water supply. In addition, the Izquierda Unida party is threatening legal action, claiming that the Town Hall is using public money to finance the irrigation of the courses from the town's water treatment plant.
The mayor has responded to the widespread fears over the water situation by stating that the agreement signed with the developers clearly stipulates that they must respect the local environment and the aquifers of the zone. He added: "If they have to bring recycled water from Benalmádena to irrigate it, that's their problem."
Ian Poulter wins Volvo Masters
Six Brits in top ten
By David Eade
THE ENGLISH GOLFER, IAN POULTER, WON THE END OF SEASON VOLVO MASTERS TOURNAMENT AT VALDERRAMA ON SUNDAY. HE BEAT SPANISH HERO SERGIO GARCÍA IN A SUDDEN DEATH PLAYOFF AFTER BOTH PLAYERS FINISHED THE FOUR-ROUND TOURNAMENT ON 277, ONE SHOT AHEAD OF OVERNIGHT LEADER, SCOTSMAN ALASTAIR FORSYTH.
Photographs of a beaming Poulter holding the trophy and his young daughter aloft were the main feature on the majority sports pages round the world. Yet the golfer conceded that 2004 had been a worse than usual season for him only coming good in the final stages with his inclusion in the winning European Ryder Cup team and now the Valderrama triumph. Indeed it was a good tournament for British players as they took six of the top ten places.
Poulter is now eyeing the American Tour but vowed he would not abandon Europe: "The European Tour will always be my home. I will always play my quota and more but money is not the motivation now it is world-ranking points and I need to play in a few more tournaments in the US, play in the big world ranking tournaments. I think I can win over there. Give myself a chance to get into the top ten in the world ranking."
In the sudden death playoff both Poulter and Garcia failed to find the fairway with Poulter going right, the Spaniard left. Garcia tried to bend his second shot round the trees, came up short and in the crowd on the left. All he could do was punch the ball up towards the green while Poulter was able to put his up on the edge of the green. The Englishman had two to win and he made no mistake - leaving himself a one-foot putt for victory.
It was a bitter blow for Garcia, eager to win the biggest tournament held in Spain. He lamented: "It's a shame. I would love to win here at Valderrama and this is as close as it gets without winning. Heartbreaking but what can you do."
NEW SOTOGRANDE COURSE
As thousands of people packed the Valderrama golf course, rated by many as the best in mainland Europe, for the Volvo Masters, another ceremony took place on the new nearby Golf La Reserva course in Sotogrande. The mayor of San Roque, José Vázquez, was given the honour of inaugurating the course by driving off from the first tee.The ceremony was presided over by the president of Sotogrande, Manuel Herrando. The new La Reserva de Sotogrande covers 78 hectares and is one of the largest 18-hole courses in Spain. It was designed by celebrated North American Carl Robynson and the clubhouse is also one of the best in the country situated in a 6,000 square metre building.
Cómpeta wins vatican approval
By Dave Jamieson
It is a tradition which was instituted by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, and for the first time ever, it has come to Andalucía; to the small Axarquía town of Cómpeta where the Holy Year of Jubilee began last Sunday and will continue throughout 2005. Boniface formalised a custom which predated him by centuries, stating that, every hundred years, sinners who visited Rome and fulfilled certain conditions would be pardoned of their misdeeds. After it was pointed out that few humans would be able to participate in their own generation, the period between Holy Years of Jubilee was gradually reduced, and since 1450, the celebration has been held in Rome every 25 years, with a few missed as a result of political disturbances. It has long been the practice to extend the Jubilee beyond Rome with locations named in a Papal Bull and with special conditions attached, usually including a certain number of visits to local churches and sometimes fasting or other works of charity.
Cómpeta was anxious to secure a Jubilee for the coming year, since next May marks the 500th anniversary of the establishment of its parish church, la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Its success in being granted the honour by the Vatican gives the town a unique opportunity to promote itself to the world with 50 coaches of pilgrims expected to arrive in the town in each week of its duration. Sunday's opening events were attended by the Bishop of Málaga, Antonio Dorado, and began with a walk from the old hermitage of San Sebastián, constructed on the site of an Arab mosque, to the church in the town centre. A mass, a concert and a fireworks display completed the celebration. Another 20 concerts, ten exhibitions, a conference of 5,000 young people, and a special postage stamp from Correos are planned for the coming months, although the highlight may well be a visit from the Prince of the Asturias on a date yet to be confirmed. Cómpeta's mayor, Leovigildo López, has stressed that the events of the coming months will benefit not only his municipality but the whole of the Axarquía, and he has involved the Mayors of neighbouring towns in the events, including providing lodgings for an expected 100,000 visitors.
By Oliver McIntyre
Benalmádena Town Hall has approved modifications to its municipal construction ordinances, aimed at regulating certain aesthetic qualities of local buildings. When it takes effect (no date has been announced as yet), the new ordinance will include a ban on parabolic or other antennas being placed in areas visible from the exterior of the building; they will have to be installed in interior patios or hidden behind the façades of roof terraces. Though the ban is aimed at new buildings and is not retroactive in general, the councillor responsible, Manuel Crespo, told CDSN that it could provide residents a stronger recourse when complaining about existing antennas that cause aesthetic concerns. The ordinance also calls for new buildings to be oriented in such a way as to minimise their effect on views, while buildings adjacent to protected or natural areas will be limited in height so that they "do not affect the scale and composition" of their surroundings. Rows of continuous townhouses will be limited to a maximum of 50 metres in length. On a more individual level, the new regulations will prohibit the enclosure of covered balconies to create additional interior room space in the home (not retroactive). However, homeowners will be allowed to convert attic space into habitable rooms as space allows, as long as access is exclusively from the interior of the home. Another element of the new ordinance reduces the minimum number of parking spaces per housing unit, with homes under 60 square metres requiring one and a half spaces per unit rather than the current two spaces per unit for all homes. Also, parking spaces specifically corresponding with a particular housing unit may not be sold independently of the home.
Spain green-lights stem-cell research
By Oliver McIntyre
SPAIN'S COUNCIL OF MINISTERS LAST WEEK APPROVED A LAW AIMED AT FACILITATING THE USE OF EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH. THE LAW ALLOWS PEOPLE TO DONATE TO SCIENCE THE EXTRA, NON-USED EMBRYOS CREATED IN FERTILITY TREATMENTS. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT CRYOGENIC BANKS CURRENTLY CONTAIN SOME 100,000 SUCH EMBRYOS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY BE USED BY RESEARCHERS.
The vice president of the Government, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, called the new law "pure common sense," and discounted any potential ethical concerns. "Not only does it not go against ethical principles, but ... just the opposite: it is unethical to place obstacles or difficulties on scientists who are using their talents and knowledge to improve our capacity to fight disease," she said. She noted that stem-cell research is one of the most promising fields in the search for treatments for diseases that currently have no cure, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Under the new law, owners of the embryonic material can donate it for scientific research by signing an 'informed consent' form, waiving all rights to any economic benefit that may result from the investigations carried out on the material. A national commission will create a scientific and ethical report on each research project using embryonic stem cells. Researchers will have to specify the origin of the material they are using, and agree to provide to other researchers, free of charge, the cell lines they obtain.
Andalucía is one of the Spanish regions with the most advanced capacity to perform stem-cell research. Cell lines from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm are expected to be sent to the Andalucía Cellular Bank, meaning the region will likely be the first in the country to begin performing such research.