News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week February 17th to February 23rd 2005.
UK ELECTIONS DRAW NEAR
British citizens urged to register to vote
BY DAVID EADE
WITH THE WISE MONEY BACKING A BRITISH GENERAL ELECTION TO BE HELD ON MAY 5, THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION HAS LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN TO URGE BRITISH CITIZENS LIVING ABROAD TO REGISTER TO VOTE.
British citizens who live abroad but who have been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years can apply to be overseas voters. If they were under voting age when they left the UK they can still register as long as their parent or guardian is registered.
Overseas voters can choose to apply to vote by post if they want the ballot paper sent to them. Equally they can opt to appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. Once registered, voters are eligible to vote in elections for the UK and European Parliament.
MARCH 11 CUT-OFF DATE
In order to vote in UK elections and referendums Britons must be on the electoral register and if there were a May 5 election would-be voters would need to register by March 11.
The Electoral Commission’s Communications Director, Angela Salt, stated: “It’s important that people realise that they need to be on the electoral register to be able to vote. If there were to be an election in May, the cut-off date to make sure you are on the electoral register is March 11. We are urging eligible British citizens living abroad to act now so they don’t lose their right to vote.”
The Electoral Commission has a voter information website at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk. It carries an electoral registration form as well as giving clear details of how to register as an overseas voter. Once the form is completed it should be sent to the electoral registration office for the address they were last registered to vote at in the UK.
No early airport deal in sight
‘Complex and difficult matter’ says Chief Minister Caruana
BY DAVID EADE
TOP OF THE AGENDA AT LAST FRIDAY’S TALKS IN MÁLAGA BETWEEN DELEGATIONS FROM BRITAIN, SPAIN AND GIBRALTAR WAS THE ISSUE OF POSSIBLE JOINT-USE OF THE ROCK’S AIRPORT.
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, seemed to rule out any quick agreement when he stated after the meeting that it was proving to be a ‘complex and difficult matter’.
The problem seems to be political rather than technical and no doubt revolve around the various parties’ attitudes to sovereignty. Spain holds the view that the isthmus on which the airport stands was never ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht and claims this separately from its overall desire to see the Rock return to Spanish control.
In contrast both Britain and Gibraltar view the sovereign territory of the Rock as stretching from Europa Point to the existing border at La Línea.
POLITICAL FORMULA NEEDED
Hence the need to come up with a “political” formula that would allow joint-use of the airport without either side seemingly weakening its stated position on sovereignty.
However where there is a will there is a way and whilst Gibraltar’s Chief Minister was taking a longer term view, Spain was still insistent that an early agreement would be possible and the meeting agreed to set up a working party on the airport. It also agreed to take action on improving the movement of traffic and people across the border and help solve Gibraltar’s telecommunications problems.
Briton seriously injured in Ronda cave
By David Eade
Six Britons decided to go on an excursion to the Hundidero Cueva del Gato in Ronda. The group was inappropriately dressed and totally ignored warning signs that it was dangerous to enter.
Once inside the cave tragedy struck just 100 metres from the entrance when one of the party, a 40-year-old male, slipped and fell in to the first lake. On making contact with the water he suffered from hypothermic shock.
The remainder of the group tried to rescue the man using a rope attached to a life belt but without any success. Finally they had to summons the emergency services and 20 fire brigade, civil defence, Guardia Civil from Ronda and Álora as well as the local police and 061 ambulance from Montejaque raced to the scene.
After three hours the rescue team managed to retrieve the injured Briton who was unconscious. He was first taken to the Hospital de la Serranía but then transferred by helicopter to the Hospital Civil in Málaga with severe hypothermia and is said to be in a serious condition.
Just three months ago the fire brigade had to carry out another rescue in the cave when a woman injured her leg. Following the latest incident the rescue services have appealed to residents and tourists alike to respect the warning signs and to only venture in to the area properly equipped.
The Hundidero Cueva del Gato is one of the most important attractions in the Ronda mountains especially for pot-holers. The zone has also seen many rescues as many inexperienced people decide to go on an adventure trip to the caves without appreciating the dangers involved.
Cártama to be home of Guadalhorce medical centre
Mayors of other towns charge political favouritism
By Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA’S PLANNING COMMISSION FOR THE NEW GUADALHORCE VALLEY MEDICAL CENTRE HAS SELECTED CÁRTAMA AS THE LOCATION FOR THE FACILITY.
The decision was announced last week by the chief of the Junta’s Health Department, María Jesús Montero. The planned facility, officially known as a ‘CARE’, or treatment and diagnostic centre, is scheduled to be built within the next two years.
Several Guadalhorce Valley towns had been lobbying to be selected as the site for the medical centre, and the announcement that Cártama had been chosen was met with quick criticism and charges of political favouritism.
The mayor of Alhaurín el Grande, Juan Martín Serón, said the decision was “not based on technical reports but on political interests,” owing to the fact that “Cártama Town Hall is governed by the [socialist] PSOE, the same as the Junta de Andalucía.” Coín Mayor Gabriel Clavijo voiced similar sentiments, stating that “the selected site meets no statistical logic” in regard to the geography and population-growth patterns in the region.
JUNTA DEFENDS DECISION
But the Junta’s María Jesús Montero said the site, a 150,000-square-metre property near the A-357 road in the Casapalma area of Cártama, was chosen for its accessibility. She said it was the best location “to guarantee that all patients in the area have adequate access” to the medical centre. She noted that planners are still studying details of the project, such as exactly what medical specialisations will be offered at the centre. Final decisions are to be made in the coming weeks and details will be provided to all of the local town halls, she said.
Jail for fraudster who preyed on elderly
By Dave Jamieson
A 52-year-old woman has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after being found guilty of a series of frauds against elderly people. A court in Málaga heard how she posed variously as a tax or social security inspector or as an employee of the Junta de Andalucía, amongst other guises, in order to swindle her victims of cash.
The woman, from Albolote in Granada, perpetrated her frauds over a wide area of Andalucía, and while she was convicted for 14 offences committed in the province of Málaga, the National Police think she may have been responsible for more than 300 incidents across the region. She approached her victims, all older women who were either single, widowed or living alone, and convinced them she was a genuine functionary of a government department. Once inside their homes, she told them that a pension increase was due to them, but that they had to present their documents within 24 hours to collect the bonus. Using this method, the jailed woman defrauded each of her victims for anywhere between 180 euros and 1,200 euros.
National Police in Málaga and Granada worked together on what was described as a “very laborious” investigation, given the “professionalism” of the woman and scant details reported by the victims, some of whom were very elderly and in a “very difficult” economic situation. Officers finally detained the woman in Granada 18 months ago.
Twenty-year-old shot dead in Rincón
Guardia Civil held responsible for the killing
BY DAVE JAMIESON
RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA HAS RECENTLY BEEN THE SCENE OF A TRAGEDY WHERE A 20-YEAR-OLD MAN WAS SHOT DEAD, ALLEGEDLY BY THE FATHER OF HIS GIRL FRIEND. THE 58-YEAR-OLD MAN NOW IN DETENTION IS A GUARDIA CIVIL RESERVE OFFICER.
The incident began at about 11.00 outside La Hidalga apartment block in the Lo Cea urbanisation, when, according to witnesses, the victim, Javier Domínguez Cabello, accompanied by his 18-year-old girlfriend María and a third person, left their third floor flat and walked outside where María’s father confronted them. They were seen having a heated conversation, during which Javier was dealt a number of blows before trying to take refuge in the entrance to the building. He then appeared to have received a gunshot wound and fell to the ground, after which the detained man fired a number of shots, one of which hit Javier in the head, killing him instantly, according to the Guardia Civil. Other witnesses alleged that he had returned to his car to fetch a second weapon.
The dead man’s brother, Guillermo, who was in the flat, came out when he heard the shots, and wrestled the pistol from the alleged attacker’s hand, before flinging it away. Local police officers later recovered the weapon along with another revolver, both of which were found to be the property of the arrested man.
A post mortem showed that Javier had been hit by five bullets, including two in the shoulder, two in the neck and the fatal shot to the head. After the shooting, María’s father is reported to have calmly called the Guardia Civil to tell them what he had done, and an armed response unit was on the scene within minutes. A nurse who lives in the same block was alerted by the commotion and ran to help, but later said there was nothing she could do to save Javier’s life.
FATHER OVER PROTECTIVE?
The reasons behind the attack are unclear, but some have suggested that relations between Javier and his girlfriend’s father had been strained, because he was not considered a suitable partner for her. It was only a week previously that Javier and María had moved in together, and this appears to have been the last straw for her father. Family members said the couple were very much in love and planned to marry in the summer. This week they had planned to buy their wedding rings.
The Guardia captain accused of Javier’s murder is reported to have been a strict, authoritarian man who served for some time in Nerja before being moved to Málaga, and who has lived in Chilches for the last few years. He also worked at Málaga airport and in Jaén before entering the reserves on October, 2003.
Battle against illegal construction continues
By Oliver McIntyre
Cártama Town Hall revealed last week that in the three months between November 1 of last year and the beginning of this February, it opened proceedings against 80 illegal construction projects, shutting down 47 of the building sites. Nonetheless, it admits that despite its efforts the problem continues to exist, if somewhat less rampantly following the enactment of Andalucía’s tougher land-use laws and a tightening of inspections.
Indeed, in some other towns that have recently touted their successes in cracking down on illegal building, anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem is far from completely tackled. For example, one resident of Mijas, which has recently reported numerous actions against illegal construction or other land-use offences (CDSN, Jan. 27 –Feb. 2 and Feb. 10-16), told Costa del Sol News that his next door neighbour in a rural area of Osunillas is illegally building “what is basically a village.” He says that despite several ignored stop-work orders, and efforts by himself and several other neighbours to report the man to the authorities, no concrete measure has been taken to shut down the project.
In the case of Cártama, the Town Hall issued a reminder last week that those found guilty of building illegally can be fined up to 150 per cent the value of the construction project, as well as have the building demolished. It advises that anyone planning to purchase a property or begin a construction project in the town should first consult with the Town Hall to find out what is and is not permitted on the property in question. Other town halls in the Costa area have issued similar advisories over the last year or so.
Benalmádena Marina expansion gets support
Business associations back Bolín
By Oliver McIntyre
SOME OF THE MAJOR BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS IN THE PROVINCE HAVE THROWN THEIR SUPPORT BEHIND THE MAYOR OF BENALMÁDENA BY SUBMITTING LETTERS TO THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT CALLING FOR IT TO LET THE MARINA EXPANSION MOVE FORWARD.
Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín has long been battling with the Junta de Andalucía's Public Works Department over his proposed expansion plan for the town's marina.
The president of the Costa del Sol Hospitality Business Association (Aehcos), José Prieto, states in his letter: "The Junta de Andalucía should be supporting infrastructures that improve the tourism sector and make it more competitive." He goes on to note that the marina expansion plan is fully prepared to move forward and is being held up only by the wait for Junta approval. The project, he says, will convert the Benalmádena facility into "the most important marina on the Mediterranean, both in the number of moorages and in nautical services and infrastructure."
In a separate letter, the president of the Málaga Business Confederation (CEM), Vicente García, echoes the points made by Sr Prieto, saying the marina expansion project is "of great value for the tourism sector." He adds that the business community supports local marinas because "they represent job creation and wealth generation, as well as being an important feature of our coast."
Mayor Bolín said last week that he has also received the verbal support of the Málaga Chamber of Commerce and the provincial Association of Builders and Developers.
Ronda golf course controversy
On December 9 Ronda Town Hall gave its approval for the construction of a controversial golf course at La Parchite. However the regional government has now stated that it has not been contacted officially to give its go-ahead to the development.
The news was broken by the regional government's advisor for the Environment Fuensanta Coves in a response to a question from the Izquierda Unida's provincial co-ordinator, Antonio Romero. She stated that up to December 23 of last year no official documentation relating to the project had been lodged with her department.
The Parchite golf project for an 18-hole course, luxury hotel and 175 dwellings was passed unanimously by Ronda town hall with just the vote of its IU councillor Remedios Ramos against. None-the-less the development cannot proceed until the regional government has given its approval of the scheme.
One of the main problems faced by the new golf course is irrigation with local communities fearful that if its draws on the aquifers in the area it could deplete their water supplies. One solution would be for the enlargement of Ronda's planned water purification plant to provide a third level of treatment that would allow its recycled water to be used for the courses irrigation.
However a decision on that rests not with the regional government but with the ministry of the environment in Madrid. At the same time the Hydrographic Confederation of the South has made it clear that it has not given its permission for any extraction of water from the aquifers by the golf courses developers.
Local artist brings 'Gazelle' to Alhaurín
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
MANUEL MARÍN, A SPANISH ARTIST OF INTERNATIONAL RENOWN WHO HAS DEVELOPED A UNIQUE STYLE OF LARGE MOVING SCULPTURES, OR MOBILES, NOW LIVES IN ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE AND HAS BEGUN TO CONTRIBUTE SOME OF HIS MONUMENTAL WORK TO THE LOCAL LANDSCAPE.
The Town Hall announced last week that his latest creation, called 'La Gacela' ('The Gazelle'), is to be installed as the centrepiece of the El Peñon roundabout, at the intersection of the MA-9002 Churriana-Cártama road and the Carretera de los Polígonos.
'The Gazelle', standing over six metres tall and composed of colourful independently moving elements that twist in the breeze like a weathervane, is not likely to be missed by anyone passing by the roundabout, and will even be visible from neighbouring residential complexes, says the Town Hall. In fact, it was the construction company of a nearby development that put up the money for the work and its installation, based on an agreement with the Town Hall.
Manuel Marín spent some time at the studios of legendary British sculptor Henry Moore in England before moving to the United States, where he was greatly influenced by the work of world-renowned moving-sculpture pioneer Alexander Calder. There are some 300 of Marín's sculptures on display throughout the US, according to municipal sources. Since returning to Spain and settling in Alhaurín, he has installed one other piece, a sculpture known popularly as 'El Pájaro Loco' ('The Crazy Bird'), located across from the Jardines de Alhaurín. He donated it to the town in 1997.
Adopt a School
Costa del Sol press association launches campaign to raise funds for young tsunami victims
Costa Press Club members have decided to lend their support to reconstruction efforts in Asia through the Adopt Sri Lanka organisation. Funds raised in the campaign will be specifically used for a school project in the tsunami-devastated area.
Details of the project were presented to local press representatives at the club's annual general assembly on 27 January in Marbella.
President Gillaine Hathaway reported that the aid organisation's initial priority had been to provide immediate relief to victims, but its efforts were now being channelled towards long-term requirements.
Initiatives include: "work for widows", to enable women to become self-sufficient and skilled; "adopt a boat", to help the fishing industry; and "adopt a school", in which donors can contribute to such urgent needs as libraries, sports equipment, books, building construction and toilets.
Adopt Sri Lanka (www.adoptsrilanka.com) is also encouraging schools abroad to be involved, not only financially but, just as importantly, by sending teachers and students to the region to help with work on their designated project.
According to Gillaine, many local people and businesses have contacted her over the past month to ask how they can help in the most direct and effective way, and suggested all their fund-raising efforts and contributions be coordinated through one central institution on the Costa del Sol - for example, the Costa Press Club.
The general assembly decided to adopt one of the Sri Lankan organisation's school projects, and agreed to make an initial donation of €1,000 to launch the fund. The recommended project is: Martin Wickremasinghe School in Habaradua near Galle, a secondary school with 375 pupils.
A bank account has been opened at the Solbank branch in Nueva Andalucía, Marbella (0081 7467 81 0006057118) to facilitate donations.
The Costa Press Club (www.costapressclub.com) is a non-profit-making association of Costa del Sol-based press, media and PR/communications professionals. For more information, contact: Gillaine Hathaway, Tel. 661 618 275, [email protected]; Ron Westcott, Tel. 654 113 240, [email protected]; or Peter Leonard, Tel. 600 502 708, [email protected]
Airline passengers get compensation increase
By Oliver McIntyre
BEGINNING TODAY AIRLINE PASSENGERS HAVE A RIGHT TO GREATER COMPENSATION - UP TO 600 EUROS - IF THEIR TRAVEL PLANS ARE AFFECTED BY OVERBOOKING OR CANCELLED FLIGHTS.
New EU regulations coming into effect today increase the compensation airlines must pay in such situations, which until now had ranged from 150 euros to 300 euros, and only on flights of more than 3,500 kilometres. Now, compensation is required regardless of the length of the flight, starting with 250 euros for flights of less than 1,500 kilometres. For flights of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres passengers are to receive 400 euros, and those on flights of over 3,500 kilometres are to be paid 600 euros.
The compensation requirements affect not only flights within the EU, but also those operated by an EU-based airline flying from a non-EU country to an EU destination.
The new regulations also establish compensation guidelines in the event of flight delays. If a flight is delayed for over two hours on short-trajectory trips, three hours on intra-EU trips or four hours on long-haul trips, passengers are to receive free food and beverage "in reasonable proportion to the waiting time." They also have a right to make phone calls or send faxes or e-mails made necessary because of the delay. In the event that the flight is delayed until the following day, passengers are to be given accommodation, as well as transportation between the airport and the hotel.
If a flight is delayed for over five hours, passengers can demand a full refund of the ticket price, or an equivalent replacement ticket, within seven days if they can show that the delay prevented them from completing their intended travel plans.
EXCEPTIONS TO NEW LAW
Airlines are not required to make compensation payments if the passengers are informed of a flight cancellation at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled flight or if passengers are rebooked on flights with similar schedules and routes to those of their originally booked tickets.
Tráfico to introduce tougher tests
By Dave Jamieson
Spain's traffic authority, Tráfico, is to introduce a new test for learner car drivers from October. A written theory exam will prioritise safety on the road and evaluate whether the candidate is fully aware of the regulations, shifting the emphasis away from mechanical knowledge. The 35 multi-choice question paper will, however, have a lower pass mark. News of the change came last week as new figures indicated that, in the province of Málaga, a road traffic accident occurred every seven minutes during 2004, placing it a little below the national average.
Two wheeled road users are also being targeted with changes in October, when the minimum age for riding a low-performance moped or motor cycle is raised from 14 to 16 years. Applicants will have to pass a written test and a practical trial, similar to that for those who want a high-powered bike.
Mobile phones banned
Meanwhile, drivers who use mobile telephones while on the move are being targeted by the Guardia Civil in a special campaign already underway. The use of a manual mobile telephone while driving was made illegal on Spanish roads some months ago, but the sight of individuals driving with one hand while conducting an animated conversation on the phone is commonplace. Traffic authorities say that using a mobile while driving increases the risk of having an accident by four or five times and Guardia officers last year denounced 60,000 drivers for the offence, a third more than in the previous year. The two week campaign which began on Monday is linked to statistics which indicate that. in 27 per cent of the road accidents which killed over 3,500 and injured 3,000 more in Spain last year, the distraction of a vehicle driver was a factor. The Guardia say they will be stopping up to 10,000 motorists in the campaign which continues until the end of next week.