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!
Thursday, November 18th to November 24th 2004.
SPANAIR PILOTS ON STRIKE
Labour action grounds many domestic and international flights
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
SPANAIR IS CURRENTLY IN THE MIDST OF ITS FIRST EVER LABOUR STRIKE, CAUSING IT TO CANCEL 50 PER CENT OF ITS DOMESTIC FLIGHTS ON A SERIES OF SCHEDULED 24-HOUR WORK STOPPAGES.
In addition, during the strike days the airline will operate just one roundtrip flight on each of its international routes.
The airline’s pilots, backed by their trade union Sepla, called the strike due to the company’s ‘continued non-compliance’ with their labour contracts, and concerns about outsourcing policies carried out by Spanair’s parent company, Scandinavian Airlines. According to Sepla, Spanair’s 500 pilots, along with other staff, fear for the future of their jobs in the face of Scandinavian’s move toward a practice known as wet leasing, the hiring of fully-crewed planes from third-party companies.
STOPPAGES FOR NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER
The first round of strike actions began on Tuesday of this week and was scheduled to continue on Wednesday and today. Future dates, assuming no agreement is reached between workers and management, are scheduled for November 23, 24, 25 and 30, and December 1, 2, 14, 15, 16, 21 and 22. The strike dates were selected to avoid long weekends and the Christmas holidays, according to Sepla, because ‘passengers are not to blame’ for the pilots’ issues with the company.
Information about the strikes and possible changing of tickets or reservations is available on Spanair’s reservations line (902 13 15 15), and at the airline’s ticket offices in airports or at travel agencies.
FIREFIGHTERS FOIL SUICIDE ATTEMPT
Quick action saves Torremolinos British resident
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE FAST ACTION OF A FRIEND AND THE QUICK RESPONSE OF LOCAL POLICE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES SAVED THE LIFE OF A BRITISH WOMAN WHO ATTEMPTED TO COMMIT SUICIDE IN TORREMOLINOS.
Officers patrolling Avenida Palma de Mallorca in the early hours of Sunday morning were flagged down by a British man who told them he had just received a call from a friend who had taken a large quantity of pills. The man accompanied the officers to the 51-year-old woman’s home and firefighters and an ambulance were also called to the scene.
Firefighters broke into the home through a partially open window and let the officers inside, where they found the woman on the kitchen floor, “semiconscious and showing signs of hypothermia and a weak pulse,” according to police reports. The ambulance team stabilised her and transferred her immediately to Málaga’s Hospital Clínico.
In the kitchen officers found a packet of medication with eight pills missing, as well as what appeared to be a suicide note, written in English and addressed to the woman’s parents. The parents were contacted and informed of the situation, according to a source close to the case.
GUARDIA CIVIL AGENT WORKED UNDERCOVER IN GIBRALTAR
BY DAVID EADE
Héctor Manuel S M has admitted in court that he worked in a shop in Gibraltar selling cigarettes as part of the ‘Operación Cartulina’ investigation. He added that he did not know whether the Spanish Ministry of Defence had notified the British authorities that he was on assignment outside of Spain.
The Guardia Civil was giving evidence in the trial being heard at Algeciras provincial court, which sees nine Guardia Civil officers and a number of civilians facing charges of smuggling cigarettes from Gibraltar across the border into Spain. The officer said he worked in a shop owned by an Indian businessman from March to July or August 2001. That covers a five or six-month period although the accused claim he was working there for 18 months. He said he worked in the shop and every 15 days made a report on what he had seen to his commanding officer.
This contradicts the testimonies given by the accused. They claim that the agent helped them hide the cigarettes in their crash helmets and in their clothing. The case continues and is expected to reach a conclusion next week.
VIOLENT HOTEL ROBBERS HIT TORREMOLINOS AND MÁLAGA
Gang escapes police search despite back-to-back attacks in one night
BY OLIVER McINTYRE
A FIVE-MEMBER GANG MADE VIOLENT HOLD-UPS AT TWO HOTELS IN A SINGLE NIGHT LAST WEEK.
Just before 04.00 Wednesday, the hooded robbers burst into the El Pinar hotel in Torremolinos and struck the receptionist and security guard to the floor. They took all the money at the desk and tried unsuccessfully to break into the hotel's safe, one of the gang members furiously pounding it with a sledgehammer, according to hotel workers. The band then fled the scene, leaving behind a number of smashed windows and other damage.
The hotel workers immediately alerted police, saying the robbers had driven off in a BMW heading toward Málaga. The police radioed ahead to officers in the capital, but the gang escaped capture and less than a half-hour later was carrying out a similar attack at the Novotel hotel on Carretera de Cádiz on the west side of Málaga. After that robbery, the gang disappeared, again avoiding capture.
POSSIBLE JEWEL-HEIST CONNECTION
Police are reportedly investigating whether there is a connection between the hotel robberies and a jewellery store break-in that occurred in Málaga the same night, in which hooded thieves broke the display windows with hammers and are believed to have fled in a similar vehicle. At press time, no arrests had been announced by police.
NERJA GOLF SIGNING
Nerja wants 'discrimination' explanation from gove
BY DAVE JAMIESON
Nerja is asking for explanations following a planned demonstration last month which would have clashed directly with a religious procession. The UGT trade union had called for a protest on the town's Balcón de Europa, in support of a pay claim by local police. The timing coincided exactly with a religious celebration and procession at the parish church of El Salvador, also on the Balcón. The protest was ultimately called off, permitting the procession to proceed unhindered, but now questions are being asked about how the planned action was authorised at all.
Nerja's security councillor, Rafael Rivas, last week asked a Government sub-delegate in Málaga, Hilario López Luna, to explain the "discriminatory treatment" shown towards the town. The councillor claims that the sub delegate authorised the police protest only a few hours after receiving a request from the UGT, without observing the required 10-day notice period. He says the approval was given in less than three hours on October 5, just five days before the planned demonstration, without Nerja Town Hall being informed. Councillor Rivas supports his claim of discrimination by pointing out that Sr Luna turned down a request for a protest in Vélez-Málaga last Thursday on the grounds it was to be held in a pedestrian zone, while he had authorised the Nerja application despite its intended location at a site which would be filled with people watching a procession and fireworks display.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS TEE OFF ON GOLF INDUSTRY
NEWS STAFF REPORTERS
MEMBERS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP ECOLOGISTAS EN ACCIÓN JOINED TOGETHER IN MIJAS LAST WEEK TO PUBLICLY DENOUNCE WHAT THEY VIEW AS THE OUT-OF-CONTROL DEVELOPMENT OF GOLF COURSES IN THE COSTA REGION.
They called for a halt to the further enlargement or creation of courses in the province of Málaga, citing water as their primary concern. The minimum water consumption of an average 18-hole golf course is equivalent to that of a town of 8,000 inhabitants, according to the group. In addition, some planned and existing courses are sited atop underground aquifers, they said, citing Marbella, Ronda and Coín as examples.
According to Ecologistas en Acción, new courses are currently planned in Alhaurín de la Torre (two courses), Alhaurín el Grande (one), Ardales (one), Benahavís (four), Casarabonela (four), Casares (five), Gaucín (one), Guadalmar (one, with 5,000 residential units), Pizarra (two), Torrox (two, with 4,000 residential units), Vélez-Málaga (eight) and Villanueva del Rosario (one). The group also mentioned another town that, although in the province of Cádiz rather than Málaga, stands out for its large number of proposed courses: Jimena de la Frontera (nine, with 9,000 residential units).
TOURISM CHIEF BACKS GOLF PLANS
Speaking in Ronda, regional government’s councillor for tourism, Paulino Plata, has spoken out in defence of the golf courses being planned for the zone. Sr Plata stated: “Golf is not a predator of natural resources, comparatively it is more respectful of the environment and uses less water than many crops and from the prospective of employment, there is no comparison.”
He was on a visit to the town of the Tajo with a group of Málaga businessmen and declared that golf courses formed part of the future of Andalucía. He also called for the abandonment of “demagogue positions” that could only cause damage to Ronda.
However he did have words of encouragement for those residents of the Ronda region who feared the impact the Parchite golf course would have on the aquifers in the zone. Sr Plata stated that the future of the development would depend solely and exclusively on its environmental impact and the ministry of the environment would have the last word on whether it could proceed or not.
ANTEQUERA GOLF UNDERWAY
A 282 million euro investment will see a huge new leisure complex created in Antequera. The development will include a luxury five-star hotel of 250 bedrooms, 150 luxury homes, a 6,000 square metre commercial zone, a complex of 100 apartments and 450 houses, a new 18-hole-golf course and an upgrading of the existing Hotel Antequera Golf with 57 new bedrooms, plus function rooms and an amphitheatre.
In the first phase of development, 202 plots of land will be classed as building land early next year, while 67 of the houses to be built there have already been reserved by private buyers from Antequera, Sevilla and Córdoba, as well as from Britain, Finland and Germany. Described as the ‘biggest private investment in the province’, the development will have the effect of doubling facilities available to golfers in the area, with the new golf course augmenting the existing facility.
NURSING 'CHAOTIC' AT CARLOS HAYA HOSPITAL
BY DAVE JAMIESON
Allegations have been made that the management of human resources at Málaga’s Carlos Haya Hospital is in a ‘chaotic’ state. The claims have come from the trades union Satse which represents nursing staff and which says that between January and August this year, 1,178 employment contracts for fewer that three days were issued. This, they allege, has come from a total absence of management systems to cover for absent staff and has resulted in ‘serious deficiencies in the quality of service provided by nursing personnel’.
The union says that the situation has produced an increased workload for permanent staff because of the shortage of those who are sufficiently qualified, and has increased the average age of nurses at the hospital to over 50 years. Nurses are also calling for an increase in their establishment, saying that the number of positions has not been increased since 1990, despite a considerable increase in the hospital’s services in the intervening years. An official for Carlos Haya Hospital said that nursing staff were contracted as necessary, while the new director general, María de los Ángeles Prieto, said the new management structure would resolve any such problems.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PLATFORM CALLS DEMO
Opposition parties support the Benalmádena citizen group
BY OLIVER McINTYRE
THE NEWLY CREATED 'PLATAFORMA CIUDADANA POR UN DESARROLLO SOSTENIBLE' (CITIZENS' PLATFORM FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT) IN BENALMÁDENA HAS CALLED A PROTEST DEMONSTRATION FOR NOVEMBER 25, BEGINNING AT 20.00 AT THE CASA DE LA CULTURA IN ARROYO DE LA MIEL.
The coalition was created earlier this month by a number of residents' associations and other citizen groups, and last week all three of the Town Hall's opposition parties - the socialist PSOE party, Izquierda Unida and the Partido Popular - announced that they had joined the platform. The CC.OO and UGT unions also threw their support behind the new group, whose stated aim is "to unite the maximum number of associations, political parties, syndicates, ecology groups, communities of owners, etc. which are in favour of a sustainable urban development model, respecting the environment, the quality of life, the cultural values and the landscape of the town."
Though the platform's goal is the promotion of sustainable development for the town in general, it was born largely in reaction to Mayor Enrique Bolín's plans to build two 20-storey buildings in Arroyo de la Miel and create an elevated monorail in the town. The platform includes residents from numerous local urbanisations, as well as the Foro de Benalmádena and Vida Tranquila associations.
TOWN HALL RESPONSE
The independent GIB-party governing team's spokesman, Manuel Crespo, last week recognised that citizens have a "constitutional right" to protest, but questioned the motives behind the planned demonstration. The group's aim "is not the fight for a sustainable town, but rather the systematic opposition to each and every action taken by the municipal government of Enrique Bolín," he said.
Sr Crespo said he found it "curious that the members of the other political parties join a demonstration organised to protest the type of urban development undertaken in the town, as it is the same as that in neighbouring towns governed by the PP, PSOE and IU." Finally, he cited several environmental awards or distinctions Benalmádena has been awarded, and highlighted environmental projects it has undertaken, including the improvement or creation of parks, green spaces and aquifers.
PENSIONERS' PARADISE IN ESTEPONA
Costa town offers best facilities for senior citizens
BY DAVID EADE
ACCORDING TO THE OFFICIAL CENSUS OF ESTEPONA (PADRÓN) THE NUMBER OF RESIDENTS LIVING IN THE MUNICIPALITY AGED OVER 60 STANDS AT MORE THAN 25 PER CENT.
In addition the zone also has the largest number of residences and support services for those in their 'third age' in the province of Málaga. These facilities are not just used by people in the area but attract people from all over Andalucía. Estepona's head of social services, David Valadez, has stated that currently the municipality has more than 600 residential places for elderly people spread over the Residencia Virgen del Carmen and the Isdabe complexes. The town also has an Alzheimer centre which cares for 30 sufferers of this illness.
In the pipeline are another 258 places of which 208 will be located at a new Isdabe centre that will offer hydrotherapy treatments. A further 50 people will be cared for at a municipal day centre that has just been put out to tender by the town hall.
EMERGENCY HELP LINE
Estepona also operates an emergency telephone assistance scheme for people aged over 60 or who are handicapped. The current number of users of this service stands at over 200, which is a 30 per cent increase over the past year. The help line operates 24-hours-a-day for 365 days a year. The users of the service have a team of specialist professionals at their disposal who know their identity, their requirements and medical data so that they can immediately react to any problem or emergency. This service is totally free to the users and is financed 65 - 35 per cent by Imserso and the town hall. The rise in the use of the help line has been matched by an increase in the cover offered by the service that gives assistance in the event of loneliness, anxiety, falls, medical emergencies and fires. The social services department can also provide new sensors that can monitor the movements of elderly people detecting if they have a fall as well as the presence of smoke, fire and gas.
The new town planning ordinance being drawn up by Marbella Town Hall will allocate land for a senior citizens residence in conjunction with the regional government's social services ministry. In addition there is planning provision for three new elderly people's centres, four apartment complexes plus two day help centres for the infirm and their families.
LOCAL CONTROL FOR NATIONAL PARKS
BY OLIVER McINTYRE
Spain's Constitutional Tribune ruled earlier this week that management of the country's national parks is to be handled exclusively by the autonomous regions in which they are located. The ruling overturns the current legislation, enacted in 1997, under which the autonomous regions share control of the national parks with the central government. The regional government of Andalucía views the decision as a hard-won victory, as it was one of two autonomous regions (the other is Aragon) whose appeal of the 1997 legislation resulted in this week's ruling. Two of the country's 13 national parks, Doñana and Sierra Nevada, are located in Andalucía.
However, not all parties are as thrilled as the Andalucía government with the decentralisation of national parks management. Major environmental groups - Greenpeace, SEO/Birdlife, Ecologistas en Acción and WWF/Adena - issued a joint press release in which they lamented the decision as "the first step in the dismantling of the National Parks Network." WWF/Adena's Juan Carlos del Olmo stated: "We believe the national parks network should be under state control because it represents the best of biodiversity, the best of nature, belonging to all Spaniards." The environmentalists expressed special concern for situations in which a park straddles more than one autonomous region, such as the Picos de Europa park, which sits in Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León.
RE-ELECTED BUSH SNUBS SPAIN'S PREMIER
Congratulatory telegram 'ignored'
BY DAVID EADE
THE SPANISH MEDIA IS MAKING MUCH OF THE PERCEIVED SNUB BY NEWLY RE-ELECTED US PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH OF SPAIN'S SOCIALIST PREMIER JOSÉ LUIS RODRÍGUEZ ZAPATERO.
Sr. Zapatero sent a congratulatory telegram to Washington as soon as Bush's election victory became clear. However it was one-way traffic as he is still to receive a return call from the man in the White House. To add to Sr. Zapatero's embarrassment the first overseas visitor to be greeted by President Bush was Spain's former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar who was in the USA to give a lecture at Georgetown University. Sr. Aznar wholeheartedly supported President Bush and British Premier Tony Blair in the war against terrorism and the invasion of Iraq , and his reward was a 40-minute meeting with Bush in the Oval Office in which the war on terror was discussed. Sr. Aznar has not reported to the Spanish government on his talks, he has only spoken to his successor as head of the Partido Popular, Mariano Rajoy.
White House officials have denied any snub by President Bush to Spain's Prime Minister. They claim the president received many calls from world leaders that he plans to return when he can. Nonetheless he found 40 minutes for Aznar and has already made calls to such diverse countries as El Salvador, Slovakia and Georgia as well as speaking to the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
ROYAL VISIT NEXT ON LIST
Although as reported in the Costa del Sol News last week Spain's business leaders do not believe the political differences with the USA will harm trade it is clear that there is much fence mending to do between Madrid and Washington.
Zapatero made no secret of the fact that his government would welcome a John Kerry victory in the US Presidential elections. Also one of his first acts after winning the March elections was to withdraw Spain's troops from Iraq.
After having hosted former Premier Aznar at the White House for a cosy chat the next Spaniards to be greeted by the president will be the King and Queen of Spain. It is hoped in Spain that their dinner invitation later this month will help heal the wounds between the two administrations.
MOPED RIDERS FACE INSPECTIONS
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Changes are on the way to bring two-wheeled road users into line with those on four wheels. From next April, all motorcycle and moped owners will have to submit their vehicles to ITV inspections to ensure that the bike remains as supplied by the manufacturer and has not been subjected to illegal alterations. The Government's road safety plan, announced earlier this year, set out the prospect of bringing 'motos' of low capacity - under 50 cc - within the testing requirement, and at present, consultation with regional governments, manufacturers, retailers and insurers continues. However, the Ministry of Industry said last week that it was confident that the new rules will be operating on schedule.
The intention is for inspections to be made at testing stations to ensure these vehicles cannot exceed their legal speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour and to check they meet noise limitation requirements. It is anticipated that inspections for bikes will be as it is for private cars, with a first test at four years old, then tests every two years until the tenth year, after which the vehicle will have to be inspected annually. However, it has been left to the autonomous communities to decide how best to implement the new measure, bearing in mind that such bikes are not permitted to travel on motorways and that some ITV testing stations are distant from town centres. The change in the law is being made following a number of reports from the Guardia Civil of owners tampering with low capacity motorcycles in order to increase their potential speed to as much as twice the legal limit. Industry experts anticipate that the introduction of ITV testing for these vehicles may well result in a lowering of insurance premiums presently charged.