News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week December 30th to January 05th 2005.
A SAFER NEW YEAR
Government activates anti-terrorism plan for holidays
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
SPANISH PRIME MINISTER JOSÉ LUIS RODRÍGUEZ ZAPATERO HAS PUT INTO EFFECT A SPECIAL ANTI-TERRORISM SECURITY PLAN, WHICH BE IN FULL OPERATION ON NEW YEAR’S EVE AND WILL CONTINUE UNTIL JANUARY 8.
The special anti-terrorist plan was first put into effect last Thursday going into the Christmas weekend. Sr Zapatero said the new security plan, envisioned as a permanent standby to be put into effect during certain dates of the year when there is considered to be heightened risk of terrorism attacks, was approved December 19 by the government’s Crisis Situations Commission (CDSC).
The plan involves the National Police and the Guardia Civil, and has also enlisted the support of the Armed Forces. It provides for heightened vigilance and protection of major strategic targets such as nuclear facilities, refineries and drinking-water reservoirs, as well as transport systems (airports, train and bus stations, railways) and urban locations with large concentrations of people.
When announcing the plan and its implantation for the holidays, Sr Zapatero said: “In light of the events this country has experienced this year, the Government has adopted special measures for the security and protection of the public.”
Nonetheless, he insisted that the decision to enact the plan should not be seen as cause for unnecessary alarm. “The most effective instrument in the fight against terrorism is the adoption of preventive measures by strengthening security,” he said.
PP FEARS PUBLIC ALARM
While most of the major parliamentary groups supported Sr Zapatero’s decision to enact the plan, the main opposition group, the Partido Popular, indicated that while it fully supports the fight against terrorism, it believes the prime minister’s announcement of the plan was a mistake because of the public alarm it could cause.
HIGH WINDS POSSIBLE CAUSE OF HELICOPTER CRASH
Investigation continues into accident, which killed British newlyweds
By David Eade
AS INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE INTO THE HELICOPTER CRASH IN WHICH A NEWLYWED BRITISH COUPLE WERE AMONGST THE THREE FATAL VICTIMS, THE GUARDIA CIVIL BELIEVE THAT AN ELECTRICS FAILURE AND STRONG WINDS ARE AMONGST THE LIKELY CAUSES.
The Robinson 44 helicopter was only one year old and was being piloted by its owner, Salvador Alarcón. The chopper was flying close to the mountain at its maximum capacity, with four people on board. According to experts this is a high-risk manoeuvre as this model is not very powerful and there were force 5 to 6 gusts of wind at the time. This type of aircraft does not carry a black box so it will be difficult for investigators to piece together what happened just prior to the crash.
An eyewitness stated that the helicopter had carried out some strange movements followed shortly by a loud explosion as it crashed in to the mountain. The mayor of Istán, Salvador Osorio, believed the helicopter was trying to make an emergency landing but something went wrong and the aircraft fell down a 3,000-foot gully.
TRAGIC WEDDING DAY
The day had started happily enough for Michael Gregory, 37, and Jeanette Hodgson, 40, who were married in Gibraltar’s registry office after an overnight stay in the Eliott Hotel. The Leicester couple then drove to Estepona, where the helicopter was waiting to take them on a sightseeing tour before joining around 20 friends and family for a reception at the Océano Beach hotel at Mijas Costa.
In the early afternoon tragedy struck when the helicopter hit the side of La Concha mountain in Istán. The Dutch co-pilot, Hermann Rich, survived the crash and was able to summons help using his mobile phone. Mrs Gregory also survived the impact and lived for four hours but died from internal injuries just 10 minutes before her evacuation.
As night set in it became impossible to remove the bodies of the pilot and Mrs Gregory so two Guardia Civil officers were left at the scene. Her husband’s body was not located until the morning and all three were then airlifted out. As the news of the crash reached the Océano Beach hotel, the Guardia Civil threw a cordon around the building to protect the privacy of the couple’s family and friends.
Marbella protest to demand more security
NEWS Staff Reporter
Following the shootings on December 4 in which a young boy from Sevilla and an Italian hairdresser were killed, some people in Marbella plan to take to the streets to demand more security for their town.
The demonstration is scheduled for January 20 at 19.30. It is being organised by residents groups, business associations and political parties and will take place in San Pedro de Alcántara, starting from the church in the town’s central plaza.
Juan Antonio García, spokesperson for the federation of residents associations in San Pedro and Nueva Andalucía said: “We are tired of suffering this lack of security in the municipality.”
The list of organisations participating in the demonstration is not closed and those wishing to officially take part can send an e-mail to [email protected] or fax 952 786 054, say organisers.
San Pedro has been chosen for the mass protest because of the latest shooting in Nueva Andalucía plus the earlier shooting of an Eastern European in Guadalmina, which occurred in the same area of the town.
More UK arrivals at Málaga
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga airport received more flights from Great Britain than from any other country – including Spain – during the first 11 months of 2004. Forty-one per cent of operations involved the arrival or departure of UK flights, compared with 23 per cent to and from other Spanish airports. Figures from airport operator Aena show that German flights made up the next highest percentage, at nine per cent, while Irish flights made up four per cent, and two per cent of flights were to or from the Netherlands.
If this month follows the pattern of last December, 12 million travellers will have passed through the airport terminals during 2004, with figures for the first 11 months already showing a rise of 4.1 per cent on last year. International passenger numbers rose by 2.5 per cent, while those flying to or from other Spanish airports rose by 10.5 per cent. The number of Britons arriving increased by four per cent, but conversely Irish, Dutch and Belgian numbers fell by up to 9.8 per cent.
Aena said the year had produced a “moderate” increase in traffic at Málaga, “perhaps a little less than had been forecast,” and the airport remained in third place nationally, in terms of passenger and operation numbers, following Madrid Barajas and Barcelona. Tourism chiefs said the figures were good news for the sector, although there were other indicators which were less optimistic.
Fuengirola’s Imam is set free
Mohamed Mustafa to undertake a course on Human Rights
BY DAVID EADE
THE BARCELONA COURT HAS GONE BACK ON ITS DECISION TO IMPRISON THE IMAM OF FUENGIROLA’S MOSQUE, MOHAMED KAMAL MUSTAFA, AND HE HAS NOW BEEN RELEASED FROM JAIL IN ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE.
The Imam had been sent to jail after being found guilty of inciting violence against women. He had been sentenced to 15 months in jail but although sentences under two years are not normally served the judge had ordered the Imam to jail claiming he was a menace to society.
The court’s ruling caused outrage amongst the Muslim community on the Costa del Sol. Both the Imam’s wife and adult daughters staunchly defended him saying at no time had he promoted violence against women, his wife adding that if he had she would have divorced him.
The new court ruling has been welcomed by the same Muslim community who have called it a “triumph for democracy”. Around 100 of the Imam’s supporters joined his family at the prison gates to await his release.
The Imam has had his sentence suspended for two years. He must now undergo a course on the rights laid down in the Spanish Constitution and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The court took the view that imprisonment would not benefit his rehabilitation that would be better served by his being free and undertaking the required courses.
Alhaurín Mayor accused of malfeasance
By Oliver McIntyre
The prosecutor’s office last week announced that it believes there is evidence of malfeasance on the part of Alhaurín de la Torre Mayor Joaquín Villanova in a case involving a private developer encroaching on municipal property. The prosecutor’s statement came following a judicial investigation of a complaint going back four years, brought by the town’s opposition Izquierda Unida party. It involves 3,755 square metres of property in the Retamar area. According to the prosecutor, the changing of the classification of the land, which had been zoned for public green space, to allow development was illegal. Such a change requires Junta de Andalucía approval, says the prosecutor.
However, the Retamar neighbourhood association announced last week that the Town Hall’s accord with the private developer came at the request of the association itself. It wanted to create a public park on a property in the centre of the urbanisation, where the developer had rights to build commercial properties. The association says the Mayor suggested that the developer’s building rights on the property could be swapped for the right to build on a separate property in the urbanisation that was classified for private sports facilities. The association agreed, and the accord was reached and approved unanimously by the Town Council. It was only later that the association realised that the developer had overstepped its use of the swapped property, encroaching on the 3,755 square metres now in dispute. “We want to thank the Mayor for his work in reaching the accord, as it was our idea to take over the property to create the park that today is enjoyed by all Retamar residents,” said the association in a written statement.
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s party, the Partido Popular, issued a statement defending Mayor Villanova and challenging the prosecutor’s accusations. According to the PP, the land-use swap was legal, was performed openly and with the knowledge of all the appropriate parties, and benefited the residents of the Retamar neighbourhood. It charged the town’s Izquierda Unida party of political persecution and defamation of the Mayor, and threatened to take legal action.
Bolín lashes out at public works
By Oliver McIntyre
BENALMÁDENA MAYOR ENRIQUE BOLÍN LAST WEEK ISSUED ANOTHER PUBLIC DENOUNCEMENT OF THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA’S PROVINCIAL DELEGATE FOR PUBLIC WORKS AND TRANSPORT, JOSÉ MARÍA RUIZ POVEDANO.
Following his statements the previous week, in which the Mayor accused Sr Ruiz Povedano of ‘partisanship’ and speaking out of turn against some Benalmádena Town Hall projects, last week Sr Bolín complained of the delegate’s “continued silence” regarding a project to build 100 units of subsidised housing in the town.
The Mayor’s complaint is in regard to a project that falls under a December 2003 agreement between the Town Hall and the Junta for the construction of 420 subsidised housing units by 2007. Sr Bolín says the Town Hall has made available a property in Finca Doña María for the construction of 100 units and in August submitted all the appropriate documentation to Public Works and Transport. He says the Town Hall has even moved forward and had basic construction plans drawn up. However, there has been absolutely no response from Public Works and Transport, says the Mayor, “which again demonstrates to us Sr Ruiz Povedano’s partisan attitude.”
TORREQUEBRADA HEALTH CENTRE DELAY
In addition, Mayor Bolín charged that the Public Works delegation is slowing the progress of another important local project, the construction of the new Torrequebrada health centre. Because of a legal challenge Public Works has brought before the courts regarding the Town Hall’s reclassification of land for the project, says the Mayor, the health centre may not be able to open its doors once completed. He expects the building to be finished in February, but says it can’t be brought into use until the challenge is resolved.
Vélez demo bears fruit
By Dave Jamieson
A demonstration staged in Vélez-Málaga to demand action on the town’s historic monuments (CDSN last week) has brought a swift response from the Town Hall. Around 1,000 people formed a human chain in Vélez-Málaga a fortnight ago stretching from the San Francisco convent to the parish church of Santa María La Mayor to draw attention to the need for conserving emblematic buildings which have been “abandoned”, according to the Friends of Culture Association, which organised the event. Within a few days, a working group was formed by the Town Hall to evaluate the present situation and to draw up a five year plan of conservation and renovation.
Vélez’ Mayor, Antonio Souvirón, said that representatives and technicians from both the Town Hall and the regional government would be involved. José María Rodríguez, speaking for the Culture Department of the Junta de Andalucía, added that the door was not closed to the participation of local people, and that their involvement was desirable. Sr Rodríguez also said that the Junta was already involved in supporting urgent work at Santa María and the convent, as well as projects at the municipal library and at the creation of a school of arts and new technologies in the future Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Lorca TV plan sparks national debate
Proposal for the exhumation of the poet’s remains angers family
BY DAVE JAMIESON
CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS A TELEVISION COMPANY’S PROPOSAL TO EXHUME THE REMAINS OF ONE OF ANDALUCÍA’S MOST FAMOUS WRITERS AND POETS, FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA, WITH THE PLAN SPARKING A NATIONWIDE DEBATE.
The TV group, formed by NBC, the BBC and the Discovery Channel, has offered to pay for the exhumation of the body of Federico García Lorca, who was murdered on August 19, 1936, four weeks after Franco’s army rose against the government. Granada, where Lorca’s family home was located, was one of the first regions to fall to Franco and Lorca was quickly arrested, questioned and imprisoned. On the morning of the 19th, he was shot and thrown into an unmarked grave along with thousands of others. The Viznar mass grave has remained untouched since 1939 and for decades its location remained an official secret. It is thought to contain up to 4,000 bodies, including that of Lorca.
The programme makers have already approached the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARHM) in Granada, offering to pay the costs of exhuming the grave, while the Discovery Channel has presented a formal proposal to undertake a “rigorous” study and bring the story of Lorca to a worldwide audience.
While the Junta de Andalucía appears to be in agreement and has said that places associated with the poet would be placed under protection in the region, the Lorca family have expressed their rejection of the offer. In a statement, six of the poet’s nieces and nephews said, “History also consists of places which need to remain naked, free of any ornaments.” They feel that, if the bones are disinterred, the place where Lorca was killed could be forgotten and levelled for high-rise buildings.
IAN GIBSON FAVOURS EXHUMATION
However, Lorca’s biographer, Ian Gibson, famous for his Hispanic studies retorted that, “Lorca belongs to all of humanity, not just to his family.” He claimed that Lorca “gave his life for Spain. He is a martyr.” Mr Gibson disputes the claim of Lorca’s relatives that an exhumation would not add much to what is already known about the circumstances of his death.
María José López for the Government said that the subject of the poet and his remains was “very delicate” while the vice-president of the ARMH, Rafael Gil Bracero, said that the negativity of Lorca’s family members had always been a sticking point. Others have stressed that the reopening of mass graves would help Spain to recover psychologically from the Civil War, which is only beginning to be openly discussed. As Juan Caballero, Mayor of the town of Alfacar near Barranco de Viznar, put it, “Ghosts of war still haunt us.”
Torremolinos expects high-stamina Irish invasion
NEWS Staff Reporter
Torremolinos Town Hall is expecting a large turnout for its 17th International Half-Marathon, including competitive runners from throughout the Costa region and the rest of Spain, as well as enthusiasts from other countries. One foreign country in particular is expected to have a very large presence at the race. According to the Town Hall, a group of some 300 Irish runners is expected to make the trip to Torremolinos to participate in the February 6 event. “They are currently looking into their travel plans,” say municipal sources. In all, the Town Hall expects over a thousand runners to participate in the 21,097-metre race.
The sign-up period for the free event began last week and remains open until February 1. Registration can be performed in person at the Town Hall’s Patronato Municipal de Deportes; via fax (952 05 13 49, followed by an obligatory confirmation call to 628 27 61 91 Monday through Friday, 8.00 – 14.00); or on the Web site www.carreraspopulares.com. The race offers a total prize purse of 15,000 euros, distributed between top finishers in the various race categories (men, women, teams, etc.). The largest single prize is 3,000 euros, which goes to the overall winner.
Gibraltar policy approved by Spain's Parliament
By David Eade
SPANISH PARLIAMENT HAS APPROVED THE GOVERNMENT'S NEW POLICY ON GIBRALTAR AFTER THE PSOE GOVERNMENT'S STANCE WAS BACKED BY THE LEFT-WING IZQUIERDA UNIDA AS WELL AS THE FOUR REGIONAL PARTIES REPRESENTED IN THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT WITH ONLY THE PARTIDO POPULAR'S OPPOSITION.
Spain's head of government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has defended in Parliament the new negotiations on Gibraltar by saying he has embarked along a favourable road to seek a solution to this contentious issue.
Spain's PM reiterated the principles of the political accord stating that Spain maintained its historic position on claiming sovereignty over the Rock.
In matters regarding the sovereignty issue, Sr. Zapatero stated that this was exclusively a matter between Spain and the United Kingdom. However in matters that related to Gibraltar, the Campo de Gibraltar or Spain on the Rock then Gibraltar would participate in a dialogue of three parties.
PP ATTACKS AGREEMENT
The opposition Partido Popular has attacked the recent agreement to allow Gibraltar a voice in tri-party talks claiming it gave the Rock state status. It also claimed that Sr. Zapatero's government had abandoned the cross-party consensus as well as Spain's long-standing claim to sovereignty.
The PSOE party spokesperson on foreign affairs in Spanish Parliament, Rafael Estrella, attacked the PP for its disloyalty over foreign affairs and Gibraltar claiming it could endanger the interests of Spain. He also criticised the opposition party's posture on the accord reached with Britain and Gibraltar.
The majority of the spokespersons for the other parties in the lower house made the point that there could be no advancement without taking into account the views of the people of the Rock.
Regional government launches new rental programme
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía last week announced the launch of a new programme aimed at encouraging the renting out of apartments that are currently sitting vacant. The measure provides a 600-euro subsidy payment to real estate agencies that rent out apartments or homes which were previously unoccupied. The idea is that the subsidy goes toward insurance against any possible damages to the property or non-payment by the renters and that, since the real estate agents handle all the transactions with the renters, homeowners will rest more assured and be less hesitant to put their homes up for rent. In order to receive the payment, agents have to show that they have 10 unoccupied units that they will rent out as homes for a minimum of two years. They then receive the 600-euro payment for each rented unit.
Traditionally, Spanish owners of unoccupied apartments have shied away from renting them out as homes, preferring to leave them empty and unused. It is estimated that there are currently 600,000 unoccupied homes in Andalucía, about 108,000 of them in the province of Málaga. The Junta's Public Works chief, Concepción Gutiérrez, says the aim of the new scheme is to bring 60,000 currently unoccupied units onto the rental market.