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Week January 13th to January 19th 2005.
EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION CAMPAIGN
Government launches multi-million advertising campaign
By Oliver McIntyre
THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT HAS LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN IN FAVOUR OF THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION, ENLISTING MEDIA CELEBRITIES, BIG-NAME FOOTBALLERS AND FAMOUS ENTERTAINERS.
The aim of the campaign is to inform Spanish voters about the content of the Constitution and encourage them to vote in favour of the Constitution in the forthcoming referendum. Recent polls have shown that Spanish voters are largely uninformed about the Constitution, but are likely to approve it in the February 20 referendum.
The Government’s campaign kicked off at last weekend’s football derby match between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, where 57,000 information brochures about the constitution and the referendum were distributed to fans in the stadium. On Sunday, February 16, the Government will distribute five million free copies of the Constitution by inserting them as supplements in the country’s newspapers.
INCREAS MEDIA ADVERTISING
Eleven television spots featuring well-known media, sports and entertainment figures reading portions of the Constitution text – with the European anthem playing in the background – will be aired repeatedly. The famous faces include ex-footballers Johan Cruyff and Emilio Butragueño, radio journalists Luis del Olmo and Iñaki Gabilondo, actors from popular television series, as well as popular Spanish singers and writers. Other media advertising will include radio spots, billboards and print advertisements. In all, the Government is spending three million euros on the campaign.
OPPOSITION PARTIES REACT
The opposition Partido Popular is also campaigning in favour of the Constitution, sending a bus around the country to inform voters and hold rallies and other events. PP leaders want the ruling PSOE party to join them in holding multi-party discussions and debates about the Constitution, especially in the face of some parties’ opposition to the Constitution, such as Izquierda Unida and Ezquerra Republicana de Catalunya.
Izquierda Unida, for its part, is actively campaigning for a ‘no’ vote in the constitutional referendum. The group is distributing pamphlets explaining why people should vote against the Constitution, which it says gives too much power to multinational corporations and NATO, and not enough protection to workers.
For more information about the Constitution visit the Futurum website http://europa.eu.int/futurum. Costa del Sol News will also be publishing a summary of the European Constitution over the coming weeks.
‘The machine was out of order – I swear!’
Renfe to stop forcing Cercanías conductors to fine ticketless riders
By Oliver McIntyre
MANY PASSENGERS ON THE MÁLAGA CERCANÍAS TRAIN LINES HAVE FACED THE FRUSTRATION OF HAVING TO BOARD A TRAIN WITHOUT A TICKET BECAUSE THE VENDING MACHINE AT THEIR STATION WAS OUT OF ORDER, AND THEN BEING FINED 4.20 EUROS BY THE CONDUCTOR ONBOARD THE TRAIN.
And more than a few passengers have found themselves in arguments with the conductor, insisting that they shouldn’t have to pay the fine if their failure to have a ticket was not their fault.
If the situation is vexing to the rider, it is perhaps even more so to the beleaguered conductor, who has to face such arguments repeatedly throughout his or her workday. In fact, the CGT trade union has long argued that Renfe’s forcing of conductors to fine such ticketless passengers amounts to ‘psychological abuse’ of the workers. And now, CGT says the national Employment Inspection Authority has backed up this charge, and has ordered Renfe to stop forcing conductors to fine passengers who board the train without a ticket at stations where there is no manned ticket-sales booth. In addition, Employment Inspection has told Renfe to perform psychological-risk evaluations on the Cercanías conductors, according to CGT.
The trade union first denounced Renfe’s forcing of the conductors to fine ticketless riders in February 2004, saying the workers faced disciplinary proceedings for not fining enough passengers, and suffered high pressure and work absences due to anxiety or burnout. CGT says many passengers complained and, in some cases, became aggressive with conductors.
STRIKE REDUCES SERVICE
Meanwhile, an unrelated Renfe worker strike action on Monday of this week affected the Málaga Cercanías lines during peak travel hours. From 07.00 to 09.00 and from 19.00 to 21.00, service on the Málaga-Fuengirola line was reduced by 25 per cent, while the Málaga-Álora line saw service cut by 50 per cent. The strike, part of an ongoing series of actions by the railway workers, is over salaries and working conditions.
Helicopter crash investigation reveals collision
By David Eade
THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE HELICOPTER CRASH IN ISTÁN ON DECEMBER 20 IN WHICH A BRITISH NEWLY WED COUPLE AND THE PILOT DIED HAS REVEALED THAT THE AIRCRAFT WAS PROBABLY IN COLLISION WITH A TREE BEFORE IT PLUNGED DOWN A RAVINE.
The Holm oak is in such a position that when the Robinson 44 helicopter came over the mountain it would have been unsighted until the last minute. Experts believe the aircraft brushed against the tree causing the pilot to lose control with the result that the helicopter plunged down to the ravine below.
Strong, gusting winds of variable intensity were blowing around the Concha mountain at the time of the
crash and had been seen as a possible cause of the tragedy. However experts examining the wreckage at the Leoni Benabú airfield in Vélez-Malaga where the helicopter was based do not believe that this was the prime cause of the crash.
A commission of investigation has been established by the Civil Aviation authority and is trying to piece together the last minutes of the flight and to determine the cause of the accident. The Robinson 44 did not carry a black box and the pilot-owner of the aircraft; Salvador Alarcón did not file a flight plan. Investigators are therefore trying to piece events together from the helicopter's maintenance records, eyewitness reports and the wreckage to ascertain whether it was a mechanical failure or pilot error.
The bodies of the two British victims of the helicopter crash, Michael and Jeanette Gregory, have now been returned to the UK for burial. The release of the bodies for repatriation was confirmed by Antonio García de Gálvez, the forensic doctor and director of the Málaga Institute of Legal Medicine.
Sr. García de Gálvez stressed that the delay in returning the bodies was the fault of the Institute but he blamed it on bureaucratic and family problems. The bodies were flown to London and then taken to Leicester for a joint funeral.
Michael and Jeanette Gregory had been married at Gibraltar's Registry Office on the morning of the crash after staying overnight on the Rock at the Eliott Hotel. After the ceremony they drove to Estepona to catch the helicopter that was meant to take them to the Océano Hotel in Mijas Costa where family and guests were waiting to celebrate with them.
Concern over Vélez River environment
NEWS Staff Reporter
Ecologists in the Axarquía have complained about a number of environmental problems around the mouth of the Vélez River. The group Gena – Ecologistas en Acción cites conditions along both banks of the river, some of which it has reported on several occasions and which it says are affecting the biodiversity of the area. The group lists 18 separate problems for which it is demanding immediate action from the water authority, Confederación Hidrográfica del Sur, and the provincial government’s Environment Department. A failure to act, says Gena, will result in an even worse degradation of the area.
Amongst the points the environmentalists draw attention to are illegal expansion of industrial premises, untreated wastewater from some businesses in the area, and the use of the riverbed by motorcyclists, which, they claim, is having a serious affect on aquatic wildlife. They also highlight uncontrolled bonfires which have led to the destruction of three trees, as well as the illegal dumping of construction and domestic waste. A local beach bar, with its associated problems of vehicles and noise, has repeatedly been the subject of complaints from the ecologists, who also say that the continual transit of four-wheel-drives, motorbikes and quad bikes across the mouth of the river, especially at weekends, is proving detrimental to bird life. Gena is asking that the threats and nuisances which it has identified around the river’s delta be eliminated immediately to stop further damage to the area’s ecosystems.
Alhaurín el Grande outgrows Coín
By Oliver McIntyre
Alhaurín el Grande's official population grew 2.8 per cent to 19,324 in 2004, putting it for the first time in a decade above neighbouring Coín, whose population grew only 0.4 per cent, to 19,295, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics. Alhaurín el Grande's growth spurt makes it the largest town in what is officially designated as the Guadalhorce Valley region (or 'comarca'). Though Alhaurín de la Torre is bigger (pop. 26,764) and is geographically located in the Guadalhorce Valley, it is not officially part of the region, but rather is included in the Málaga region.
The fastest-growing town in the Guadalhorce Valley region was Cártama, which in 2004 surged five per cent, to a population of 15,524. The next biggest town in terms of population, Álora, grew just 0.7 per cent in 2004, to 12,838 people. Meanwhile, Pizarra's population jumped by 3.2 per cent to 7,165. The only town in the Guadalhorce Valley that saw its population decrease in 2004 was Ardales, dropping 0.3 per cent to 2,642 residents (though like Alhaurín de la Torre, it is a Guadalhorce Valley town only geographically, as it is officially part of the Antequera region).
Benalmádena moving forward with monorail
By Oliver McIntyre
Benalmádena Town Hall expects to put out to tender this week the municipal transport project that will include the construction of an elevated monorail, as well as the creation of a new microbus service in the town. While the new microbus lines will be put into service “as soon as possible,” according to Mayor Enrique Bolín, the monorail project is likely to take longer to get off the ground. If the transport project goes out to bid this week as planned, it will do so with the proposed monorail still requiring further environmental impact study prior to gaining Junta de Andalucía approval.
The Junta has informed the Town Hall that it needs to redo the noise impact study on the monorail project because the initial study was not performed by a Junta-certified company. Nevertheless, Mayor Bolín indicates that construction of the monorail line could begin even before the sound study is finalised. Noting that construction will take a fairly long time to complete, he says there will be plenty of time to perform the study and gain final Junta approval before the monorail trains actually go into service.
New year, old problem
Waves of illegal immigrants arrive in Nerja and Motril
By Dave Jamieson
ONLY THREE DAYS INTO THE NEW YEAR, NERJA EXPERIENCED ITS FIRST INFLUX OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS OF 2005.
Following a late-evening alert from residents who believed they had seen drugs being landed, officers from the town’s local police and Guardia Civil attended a beach on the border with Torrox and detained at least 21 people who had just disembarked from a launch. Ten of the group, all believed to be Moroccan and including one woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia while three others were found hiding in reed grass on the nearby Playazo beach. One younger member of the group who claimed to be a minor was later discovered to be 18 years old and therefore subject to the same as adults who are automatically repatriated. The majority of those detained held no identity papers, and police who inspected the belongings left on board the launch believe that the total number aboard the craft was greater than the number arrested, the remainder having escaped detection.
The same day, another boat carrying 33 Moroccan men was intercepted 25 miles of the coast of Motril. A merchant vessel is reported to have advised the authorities of their presence, and all on board were taken ashore for questioning. Four other Moroccans were reported to have been arrested in Nerja last week taking shelter in a farm building. One told police that they had arrived with a number of others by boat some time previously.
500 FEARED DEAD
The incidents came as the Andalucían Human Rights Association announced that 289 people are known to have died off the coasts of Spain last year while attempting to enter the country illegally. However, the Association’s president, Rafael Lara, added that the true figure was likely to be nearer 500.
Other statistics released last week by the Ministry of Employment and Social Services indicates that the number of illegal immigrants detained last year was down by 18 per cent on 2003, but these figures set the number of deaths at just 81.
Residents' fury over lack of beach parking
By David Eade
THE RESIDENTS OF THE EL SALADILLO AND COSTALITA URBANIZATIONS IN ESTEPONA HAVE REACTED WITH FURY TO THE SO-CALLED IMPROVEMENTS CARRIED OUT IN THE ZONE BY THE CONSTRUCTION COMPANY URBIS.
Amongst other complaints the residents claim that the works have left them with just ten parking spaces in a zone that attracts thousands of summer bathers.
Under an accord signed by Urbis with Estepona town hall the company that built homes at Costalita has undertaken to make good the access road to the beach, asphalt it, provide pavements and, say the residents, build a large asphalt area by the beach for visitors to park their cars on. In the event the parking zone has not been built which will leave local residents competing with tourists for their own private parking spaces.
Other complaints made by the residents are that instead of asphalting both lanes of the beach access road Urbis has only renewed the right hand lane with the result that traffic coming from the beach to the A-7
(old N-340) tries to use the right rather than the un-repaired left hand lane. Furthermore, residents are angry over the poor state the constructor has left the beach gardens and claim it makes the promenade look desolate and abandoned.
NO FINES FOR UNDERGROUND CAR PARK CONTRACTOR
The company that has constructed an underground car park beneath the central avenida de España in Estepona and remodelled the avenue at ground level will not face any fines from the local town hall. As previously reported in the Costa del Sol News the contract between the town hall and the company allows for a 3,000 euros a day fine for every day the work is delayed. However, despite the work only being 95 per cent completed on time, the town hall has ruled that the various phases were carried out within the allotted time scale.
The ambitious construction project was started in June 2003 with an 18 month time scale. Estepona's councillor for infrastructure, Rafael Montesinos, has stated that the work to complete the car park and finish the road will not be terminated until March or April. Work will start shortly on upgrading the road from the roundabout at the junction of the avenue with the Avenida Juan Carlos up to the arroyo Melonar.
English speakers keep tourist office busy
By David Eade
THE FUENGIROLA TOURIST OFFICE HAS HAD ANOTHER BUSY YEAR WITH STAFF DEALING WITH AN AVERAGE OF 372 VISITORS A DAY.
The busiest period was at the start of October, the week the resort celebrates its traditional 'Feria del Rosario'. The average during October almost doubled to 765 visitors but during the feria week more than a 1,000 people a day called at the tourist office for information.
December was the quietest month with an average of just 202 visitors a day followed by January with 293. February accounted for 337, March 313, April 437, May 262, June 308, July 378, August 379, 423 in September and finally 371 per day in November.
English-speakers made up the largest group seeking information from the tourist office staff. In second place were Spanish speakers and in third place, but with far fewer enquiries, were French speakers. Spaniards made up the majority of enquiries during the summer months but that changed in the favour of non-Spaniards in the winter months when the resort sees a large influx of people escaping the cold climate of their native Northern Europe.
NEARLY 9,000 CONSULTATIONS
Fuengirola's foreign residents department, which is part of the resort's tourist organization, also had a busy year. It had 8,881 enquiries from foreign residents the majority, 5,531, coming from British and Irish nationals.
Finnish nationals made up the second largest group with 816 consultations followed by Holland and Belgium 510, Denmark 373, Sweden 278, French 198, Norway 168, USA 122 and Germany 108. The remainder were from residents of non-EU member states.
Gibraltar Forces Commander was under police invest
News Staff Reporter
The Commander of the British Forces in Gibraltar, Royal Navy Commodore David White, who was found dead in the swimming pool of his official residence in Mount Road on Saturday, was under investigation by the Ministry of Defence Police in the UK.
The reasons for the investigation have not been released by the police and it is understood that the case has now been closed following his death. It is also believed that the commander had been recently
informed of the investigation and recalled to the UK.
The Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Francis Richards, gave permission for the Royal Gibraltar Police to carry out the enquiry in to the commander's death as it took place on military premises. The RGP has asked the MOD's police to assist it in the matter.
The body of Commodore White was taken to the Rock's St Bernard's hospital to await a post-mortem by a forensic team from the UK. In the interim, Inspector Eddie Yome, of the RGP, stated that the body of the commander showed no signs of injuries or violence and it is not believed that he was the victim of a criminal act. Equally it appears he did not die from natural causes, which seems to leave two possibilities, a tragic accident or suicide. A final verdict will be given by the coroner.
Commodore White lived alone at Mount Barbary and his staff were only present at the house when required. It was one of his military assistants that discovered the commander's body when he called to the house to see him on Saturday afternoon.
The commander was born in London in 1954, was educated at Eton and joined the Royal Navy in 1973. He commanded HMS Onslaught and Torbay, was a member of the NATO military staff in Brussels and had only been in Gibraltar since May 2004 where he was responsible for all the military installations on the Rock. He had become a respected and much-liked member of the Gibraltar community and had made strong efforts to both heighten the profile of the Royal Navy on the Rock and also to forge closer links between the armed forces and the local people. He had also played a major role in last year's Tercentenary celebrations.
Bilingual school for Benalmádena
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía's Education Department has approved the opening licence for a new private bilingual school currently under construction in Benalmádena Pueblo, according to its director, Joanna Tew. Construction of the school, which is being built in the style of a small castle near the Buddist stupa just west of the town centre, is expected to be completed by July. Ms Tew says that during the summer months the school will open its doors for parents to check it out and learn more about it, and will then begin offering classes at the beginning of the 2005-2006 school term. Called Costa Kinder Care, the school will offer classes for children up to six years old, who will be taught in both English and Spanish.
Another new private school in Benalmádena, the recently announced Colegio Torrequebrada, has also received its opening licence for the 2005-2006 school term, according to its directors. Being billed as Andalucía's first 'smart school' due to its focus on advanced technology in everything from teaching resources to security to environmental energy management, the centre will at first offer primary school classes and later add a secondary school.
Lowest traffic fatality rate in 25 years
By Oliver McIntyre
The number of traffic deaths on Spanish roads in 2004 was the lowest in 25 years, and was down 12.7 per cent from 2003, according to figures released last week by the national Traffic Authority (Tráfico). In 2004 there were 3,516 traffic deaths (in 3,038 fatal accidents), compared with 4,029 deaths (in 3,443 fatal accidents) in 2003. In addition, the number of injuries dropped dramatically in 2004, with serious injuries down 21.6 per cent and minor injuries down 20.9 per cent.
In the province of Málaga, there were 85 traffic fatalities in 2004, down 19 per cent from 2003 (105 deaths). It was the lowest annual death toll on the province’s road since 1977, when there were 65 fatalities.
Authorities attribute the reduction in traffic deaths to a combination of factors: new road laws, stiffened penalties for traffic infractions, increased patrolling of speeding and drink driving, and greater awareness among drivers. While clearly pleased with the significant drop in traffic deaths in 2004, Tráfico officials were quick to point out that the fatality rate is still too high and there remains work to be done to reduce the numbers further.
Flu outbreak gathers momentum
By Dave Jamieson
OFFICIALS HAVE CONFIRMED THAT THE COUNTRY IS THE GRIP OF A SERIOUS INFLUENZA OUTBREAK.
The director general of public health at the Ministry of Health in Madrid, Manuel Oñorbe, confirmed last week that the outbreak had reached a “high incidence” of 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Worst hit is the central region of Castilla – La Mancha, where 416 per 100,000 has been recorded, followed by the País Vasco. The figure given for Andalucía by the regional health service is presently just 3.4 per 100,000 but Sr Oñorbe warned however that the number of cases in regions with a lower incidence is likely to rise as the virus, described as not especially virulent, spreads more widely in the coming days.
The present outbreak unusually rose to a high point in the first few days of the New Year, whereas previous winters have seen particularly high levels in November and December. A peak of around 450 cases per 100,000 is being predicted by the Ministry for later this month, although they describe this as “similar” to the same period in previous years. Sr Oñorbe said that the elderly and unwell may require special care during the coming weeks, but warned that antibiotics should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor. In Andalucía, the Junta de Andalucía has distributed 183,000 doses of flu vaccine since October in a campaign repeated from previous years. 13.5 per cent of the region’s population was inoculated with the medicine which is reported to be effective in 75 per cent of cases.
The Spanish Society of Medical Casualties and Emergencies has warned that some hospital departments, particularly in the middle and north of the country, may quickly become overstretched as the number of flu patients increases. A spokesman said that some emergency units were receiving 40 per cent visits than usual, while admissions were up by ten per cent. José Luis Casado said that some hospitals were having to postpone routine surgery programmes in order to free up beds for sufferers from flu and complications such as pneumonia. The 061 emergency service is said to be at saturation level in some areas, with delays of ten to fifteen hours being reported.
Doctors say that the symptoms, including several days high fever, severe nasal congestion, a dry cough and muscle pains, will last about a week, with or without treatment, once the virus has taken hold.