News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week March 24th to March 30th 2005.
Murder in Mijas
Briton arrested in connection with apparent double killing
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
A BRITISH MAN HAS BEEN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE ALLEGED DOUBLE MURDER OF A COUPLE, ALSO BELIEVED TO BE BRITISH, AT THEIR HOME IN THE RURAL LA ATALAYA AREA OF MIJAS.
Shortly after 6.00 Friday morning, firefighters responding to a blaze at the couple’s home found the body of a man about 100 metres from the burning house, with numerous stab wounds, many of them in the back. A trail of blood led from the house to where the man’s body was found. The fire was extinguished within about 40 minutes, and inside the house firefighters found the remains of a woman, burned beyond recognition.
IDENTIFICATION PENDING ON AUTOPSY
While autopsy reports have yet to firmly identify the couple, it is believed they are British (though some neighbours initially indicated that the man was British and the woman German) and in their late 50s to 60s. Due to the severely burned condition of the woman’s body, official identification is pending DNA analysis. The couple is reported to have lived in the area for seven years and run a bar called Patsy’s Parrot in the Los Boliches area of Fuengirola.
Neighbours reported smelling a strong odour of petrol or some other combustible solvent, which may have been used to start or spread the fire in the two-storey wood house.
CLOSE FRIEND ARRESTED
The man who was arrested, identified by one Spanish newspaper as Paul Francis B., 51, was picked up by Guardia Civil officers shortly after the bodies were discovered. Neighbours indicated that he was a friend of the couple’s who often spent time at their home. In his initial statements to police, he reportedly denied any involvement in the incident.
Estepona train link to go underground
Changes to POT infrastructure plan announced
BY DAVID EADE
ONE OF THE MAIN FEARS VOICED BY ESTEPONA RESIDENTS OVER THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S POT PLAN (PLAN DE ORDENACIÓN DEL TERRITORIO) WAS THAT THE PLANNED EXTENSION OF THE MÁLAGA TRAIN CONNECTION WOULD CUT THROUGH EXISTING RESIDENTIAL ZONES.
Now thanks to representations made by Estepona Town Hall, the infrastructure plan has been amended to ensure that the entire length of the rail track goes underground.
The change of plan was announced at a meeting attended by more than 700 local people. It was co-presented by José Segui, who is responsible for drafting the POT as well as the Mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos. It is now proposed that the railway will follow the line of the old N-340 now A-7 dual carriageway.
Sr Segui told the meeting: “Now we are drawing new plans for the railway that will go underground and will not affect between 200 and 300 properties which it previously would have crossed.” Sr Segui observed that the modifications would mean a large increase in the cost of the rail project by around 18 million euros.
Estepona’s other suggestions on the train project relating to the number of stations in the municipality have yet to be discussed by regional government’s ministry of public works.
FUTURE MOTORWAY DISCUSSED
Also yet to be decided on is the route of the future motorway to the north of Estepona. However Sr Segui assured those present at the meeting that he was looking for a route that would not affect the small property owners in the area. In addition, regional government was looking at changing the law so that a house can be built on an agricultural plot so that Estepona can maintain its tradition of having smallholdings.
Sr Segui informed the meeting that in the second half of April the ministry of public works would present the modified POT document and new plans. These would be on public exhibition for two months so that people who are not in agreement with them can make further representations and also any errors can be eliminated.
‘White whale’ leaves consternation in its wake
By David Eade
The director general of the police, Victor García Hidalgo, has declared that the investigations in to the ‘Ballena Blanca’ (‘White Whale’) 250 million euro money laundering case are not closed and are continuing both in Spain and at an international level. The case has left a sense of consternation amongst foreign residents, lawyers and politicians.
The Chilean-born Marbella lawyer, Fernando del Valle, who is alleged to be the ringleader in the largest money laundering scam in Spanish history, is currently in prison in Alhaurín de la Torre. His defence lawyer, Javier Núñez, has called for his trial to be switched from Marbella to the high court in Madrid arguing that “they are more accustomed to these cases”.
Foreign residents are also feeling the heat, as now those investing money in a property purchase have to establish the source of their funding. The president of the federation of association of foreigners on the Costa del Sol (FAECOSOL), Ricardo Sánchez Bocanegra, has spoken out in defence of the vast majority of the foreigners who have lived in Marbella for the past 40 years.
The respected Marbella businessman declared that these people had invested their savings in an absolutely honest manner and lived in perfect harmony with their Spanish neighbours. As he was speaking around 100 Marbella lawyers held a three-hour crisis meeting fearing that they would all now be tarred with the same brush as Del Valle. It was decided that they should sign a manifesto against the “criminalisation” of their profession in Marbella. The lawyers expressed their concern that their image would be damaged internationally as the ‘Ballena Blanca’ case had been reported throughout Europe.
Also now feeling the heat are the Mayors of Manilva, San Roque and La Línea. The judge in the ‘Ballena Blanca’ case has embargoed three urbanisations, two in San Roque and another in Manilva. The mayor of San Roque has denied that he met with representatives of Del Valle or others implicated in the case.
The Campo de Gibraltar media has tried to link the mayor of La Línea to René Piérre Elbaz. The French national and Sotogrande resident constructed the Sea Golf Hotel in Alcaidesa and is now imprisoned with Del Valle. It has alleged Elbaz enjoyed a close association with the Mayor and town council and that the Mayor’s wife is employed by one of his companies.
Marbella may be demolished
By David Eade
Regional government has announced for the first time that it is to seek the demolition of properties in Marbella that have licences that were annulled by the Supreme Court in ratifying rulings made by the Andalucía high court. Around 1,600 properties are involved.
The announcement was made by the provincial delegate for public works, José María Ruiz Povedano, who commented that the Andalucía government has presented to the court around 370 cases since 1995. Several weeks ago the Andalucía court annulled the town-planning ordinance passed by Marbella town council in 1998 and declared that the 1986 ordinance still stood.
Over the years the Andalucía court had either suspended licences or paralysed works and these court rulings had often been ignored. It was for that reason that the Andalucía government had asked the Supreme Court to confirm the decisions made by the lower court. Sr Ruiz Povedano stated that the situation in Marbella was unprecedented in Málaga Province and pointed out that the jet-set resort had created an illegal ghost town.
Málaga keeps old Easter traditions
Prisoner to be set free following historic custom
By Dave Jamieson
A 32- YEAR- OLD PRISONER WILL BE FREED IN MÁLAGA TODAY UNDER THE TERMS OF A ROYAL DICTATE OF 246 YEARS AGO.
On the Wednesday before Easter every year, one person held in a Málaga jail is given liberty in an tradition which began with the end of an outbreak of the plague in the city which had resulted in the Holy Week processions being cancelled in 1759. Those imprisoned at the time asked the city if they might process the image, known as "El Rico", rather than fail to observe the custom altogether. The Town Hall agreed, the prisoners undertook the task before returning to their cells, and the plague, which had claimed numerous lives, vanished. King Carlos III interpreted this as a miracle and decreed that one Málaga prisoner should be freed every year, a decision ratified by Juan Carlos I shortly after being proclaimed King.
This year, a 32- year -old man, a gardener by trade, is being liberated today. He has asked for anonymity for his name and his crime, for which he was sentenced to a jail term of three years and eight months. He has recently completed two years, and as a trusted prisoner, has started work outside the prison, returning there each night. Following tradition, he will today walk as a penitent and free man with the El Rico procession through the city centre.
The gardener will follow one of the 78 ornately decorated floats depicting scenes from the Passion which, by Easter Sunday, will have been processed through the streets of Málaga by members of 41 local guilds - and as usual, the crowds will be out to watch all of them.
FIVE MILLION VISITORS EXPECTED
The city is expecting five million visitors during the week, with hotel occupation estimated at near 100 per cent. The figures, thought to be higher than last year, are being swelled by up to 10,000 tourists arriving on cruise liners during the week. Today and Saturday are expected to be the busiest with around a million visitors witnessing the processions on each night. Málaga's mayor, Francisco de la Torre, says that the events of this week are a "dynamic element of the Málaga culture, forming part of our history and our traditions," adding that they form an important component of the application for Málaga to be European City of Culture in 2016.
In addition to handling the requirements of the tourists, Málaga has had to gear up for maintaining its services and infrastructures at a heightened level. 249 of the city's cleansing staff are operating 80 vehicles every day to keep the centre free of dirt and litter, while 674 local police officers, along with the Guardia Civil, are providing an increased security level. Extra car parking areas, totalling 60,500 square metres, are open while many streets remain closed to most traffic. The city's buses are operating 15 per cent more services than last year, with free travel between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and extra late night services, while 3,384 flights are operating through Málaga airport over the ten day period. Experts estimated that by next Monday, the region's economy will have benefited by 140 million euros, principally in the city of Málaga.
Tivoli owner plans 'entertainment centre'
By Oliver McIntyre
The new owner of Benalmádena's Tivoli World amusement park has announced plans for a major renovation that will include the creation of a 50,000-square-metre entertainment and commercial centre with a cinema multiplex, at an investment of up to 260 million euros over the next couple of years.
The company, Arenal 2000, unveiled its plans at a press conference last week that was also attended by Mayor Enrique Bolín. The company's president, Rafael Gómez Sánchez, said his goal is for the park to achieve an annual visitation of three million people within three years.
The plans call for a modernisation of the existing facilities and the addition of new rides, most importantly a 28-metre-tall big wheel that Sr Gómez says he hopes will become the park's flagship image. But the biggest change is without a doubt the plan for the large entertainment and commercial centre to be sited on the existing parking lot. In addition to the multiplex, it will have shops and even possibly a permanent circus. An underground garage will be created beneath the centre.
Other changes include opening the park year-round (it just re-opened Saturday following this year's winter closure), lowering food prices, and including entrance to concerts and shows at the park's theatres in the 4.50 euro general admission price.
Mayor Enrique Bolín said the Town Hall had not yet studied the details of the proposed plans.
Tranvía trauma at Vélez
By Dave Jamieson
Big business has reacted coolly to an invitation to operate Vélez-Málaga’s new light transport system. The licence to run the “tranvía” tramway, presently under construction between Vélez and Torre del Mar, has attracted only one application, even after being advertised for a second time. The only approach made on both occasions has been from an alliance of Alsina Graells, Continental Rail and Sando whose first application was rejected by the Town Hall earlier this year on the grounds that it did not meet the published terms and conditions. The new application is presently being analysed. Two other groups, FCC-Connex and ALSA, were expected to apply, but, in the end, neither has.
The 25 year contract on offer covers the upkeep of the system and the concession to operate the transport system in return for a payment of around 400,000 euros per year, plus running costs. Despite the setback, Vélez’ mayor, Antonio Souvirón, says he still expects the tranvía to be operating by this autumn.
Málaga nursery row
News Staff Reporter
A row has broken out in Málaga over the lack of security at a nursery school after two toddlers left the premises unnoticed.
The first escape last Wednesday involved three- year- old Raúl who decided to leave the Eduardo Ocón college in calle Mendoza for a stroll back home, explaining later that he did not like the food he had been offered for lunch. He was found by two local police officers who drove him past several apartment blocks until Raúl was able to identify where he lived, in calle Carpio. His surprised mother, María José, had no idea he was missing from school, and she and her husband David immediately decided to make a formal denuncia against the school to the police, the Junta de Andalucía and the education authorities. The Eduardo Ocón college refused to make any public comment on the incident, although an investigation was reported to be underway. Two days later, it was the turn of three- year- old Carlos to attempt to return home from the same school. He is believed to have left during playtime, and crossed several main roads, only some of which were controlled by lights, in an attempt to find the hairdressing salon where his mother, África Fonseca, works. Carlos ended up in a park nearby, where two ladies found him and took him to the shop.
His mother was highly critical of security measures at the school after her son told her that he was able to open an electrically-locked door by simply pushing it. She said that when she went to the school, she confirmed the security lock was not functioning two days after the first escape, and alleged that the staff had no idea that Carlos was not present. Again, no comment was forthcoming from the school itself.
The Costa’s ‘second-largest’ theatre
Benalmádena’s new theatre ready in two years time
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
BENALMÁDENA MAYOR ENRIQUE BOLÍN AND HIS GOVERNING TEAM HAVE SET THEIR SIGHTS HIGH IN PLANNING THE TOWN’S NEW MUNICIPAL THEATRE.
Unveiling the project last week along with architect José Seguí, who designed the building, the Mayor boasted that it will be the second-largest theatre in the province and that its stage, at 350 square metres, will be larger even than the one at Málaga’s Teatro Cervantes.
The new theatre is to be built next to the existing auditorium at Parque de la Paloma and is scheduled for completion in two years. The Town Hall expects to put the construction contract out to bid within the next week or so. The eight million-euro cost will be financed through a 20-year lease agreement with the selected builder, as the Town Hall’s requests for Junta de Andalucía subsidies for the project were denied.
The 5,500-square-metre theatre building, with a sleek modern exterior, will have a seating capacity of up to 850 people, including theatre seating, balconies and boxes. It will hold theatre, music and dance productions, bringing national and international touring acts to the town. In addition, the building is to include three conference rooms for events and congresses. The Town Hall envisions using the theatre’s large entrance plaza as the site of the municipal tent at future editions of the town’s annual ‘feria’ celebration.
Álora wind park comes online
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE AND DAVID EADE
THE NEW POWER-GENERATING WIND PARK AT SIERRA DE AGUAS IN ÁLORA HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED.
The 16 towering windmills (they are 45 metres tall) have a generating capacity of 14 megawatts, roughly equivalent to the energy needs for 25,000 people. The company behind the project, Parque Eólico Sierra de Aguas SL, invested about 14 million euros in creating the wind park, the third such facility in the province of Málaga (the other two are in Casares).
The power generated by the Sierra de Aguas park will be transferred to the Sevillana-Endesa substation at Paredones in Álora via an eight-kilometre underground line. According to the company running the park, the wind-generated power will represent a 40,000-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise be created by thermal-based power generation.
There are currently projects in various stages of development for a total of 19 wind parks in the province of Málaga. Once they are all operating, their combined total output potential is expected to reach 448 megawatts.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Junta de Andalucía’s Environment delegate for Málaga, Ignacio Trillo, the Innovation, Science and Enterprise delegate, María Gámez, and the mayors of Álora and Casarabonela, José Luis Sánchez and Sebastián Gómez, respectively.
TWO NEW WIND PARKS IN TARIFA
The two wind generating parks at Pasada de la Tejada and Las Herrerías in Tarifa owned by Vendaval and Enerfin are now fully operational. Between them they have 33 wind generators producing 56.8 megawatts of electricity. The two parks were constructed by Ecotecnia and represent a 50 million euros investment.
Each of the 33 Ecotecnia 74 generators has a potential output of 1,600 kilowatts and the span of the blades is 74 metres in diameter. The annual output of the wind park is sufficient to meet the needs of 152,000 people, the equivalent of a town such as Cádiz.
The development of the giant wind generating parks in the Tarifa region is not without its critics. Ecologists have long campaigned against them and last year the mayor of Facinas, Sebastián Álvarez, sought the ‘maximum compensation possible’ from the mayor of Tarifa claiming that the wind parks, the substation and high-tension lines had damaged the image of his village.
Wood goes walkabout
By Dave Jamieson
More than 1,000 kilograms of wood has disappeared from a Nerja construction site. The embarrassing discovery was made by workers who arrived for work last Wednesday morning at the Flamingo urbanisation, where preparations are being made for the move there of the town’s Sunday market which is organised by the Lions Club. Guardia Civil and local police officers investigating the case say that removing the wood must have required a long operation to load it onto a lorry before driving it off and have been interviewing local residents to discover if anyone witnessed the theft. Enquires are also underway to find out if the incident has any connection with another about a year ago when a local police patrol surprised an individual loading stolen wood onto a British-registered lorry in the town centre. The Town Hall says, however, that work on developing the new market site will not be delayed as other tasks remaining outstanding and the wood could be easily replaced.
Spanish arrests in international child porn crackd
By Dave Jamieson
Nineteen people have been arrested in Spain in a crackdown in Internet child pornography. They were amongst 500 detained in 12 countries across Europe and South America last week in “Operation Cerbero”, an investigation run by the Guardia Civil over the last three months. It began after a complaint was filed in the northwest Galician town of Caldas de Rei from a resident who reported seeing graphic pornography involving very young children in a Spanish-language Internet chat room. Officers working on the case say the material was “extremely hardcore” and included photographs of babies.
Police in the Galician region of Pontevedra immediately sought court permission to monitor the site and those who accessed it with a pseudonym, an action supported by the “unconditional” assistance offered by the commercial company whose computers played host to the chat room. Within the 15-day observation period authorised by the court, around 900 users of the chat room were identified across a dozen countries. From these, the Guardia Civil were able to determine the names and address of 19 individuals in Spain who had either downloaded files, or uploaded their own photos and videos of minors which could then be viewed by other visitors to the chat room.
The Spanish investigators then spread the net wider, and asked for international co-operation from the relevant two judicial bodies in Europe and Latin America, Eurojust and IbeRed, and in under two months, the collaboration produced results. 500 of the 900 user pseudonyms were traced to actual names and address of those described as “image providers” to the chat room. According to the authorities, the remaining 400 could not be identified because they had accessed the chat room from Internet cafés (“cyber cafés”) rather than from their homes.
Once all police forces across the 12 countries involved had confirmed that they held the data required, a date and time for a simultaneous strike was agreed: 7.00 on Wednesday of last week. The 19 detentions in Spain were spread across 13 different provinces and included arrests in Madrid, Alicante, Barcelona and Tenerife. In the Spanish operation alone, officers confiscated an estimated 20,000 images of illegal pornographic videos and photographs involving minors, while numerous cameras and computers were seized for examination.
The day before the police raids, the Interior Ministers of the five largest EU countries meeting in Granada, had formed a working group to study criminal activity on the Internet. The object of the motion, proposed by Germany, is to assist security forces in their struggles against terrorism, organised crime and paedophilia. In Spain, the companies which provide connections into the Internet may soon be required to retain data on the activities of their users. The Public Defender, Enrique Múgica, is calling for such information to be held for a month to assist with enquiries into child pornography crime.
Removal of Franco sculpture sparks debate
By Oliver McIntyre
Despite the fact that officials chose to have it done in the dead of night, the removal last week of Madrid's most famous sculpture of Francisco Franco, Spain's former dictator, did not go unnoticed. Far from it. It appears that the Spaniards are still divided when it comes to the image and memory of 'El Caudillo'.
Even as the work was being carried out, between 0.30 and 3.00 Thursday morning, onlookers quickly gathered at the scene and some yelled protests about the removal of the statue and shouted pro-Franco messages. When news of the statue's removal became widespread later that morning, a sort of national debate ensued, both at the office water-cooler or local bar and at the highest political levels.
For some, the question concerns history - its faithful representation or after-the-fact revisionism. The administration of socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero defended the removal of the statue as "a normal democratic act," saying that homage-like images of the former dictator do not enjoy the "great consensus" of public opinion that public monuments should have. The opposition conservative Partido Popular, on the other hand, accused the administration of living in the past rather than looking to the future, and reacted to the removal of the statue by calling Sr Zapatero's government the "most radical in [Spain's] democratic history."
Meanwhile, at the site where the statue used to stand, in Plaza San Juan de la Cruz, some Franco diehards came to place flowers on Thursday morning. By later that afternoon, some 700 to 1,000 people had gathered at the site to protest. They held up their right arms in the fascist-style salute and shouted 'Viva Franco!' and other slogans. Other members of the public tried to shout down the protesters, making reference to the murderous and repressive aspects of the late dictator's regime.
While few today would likely argue for dictatorship over democracy in Spain, it is clear that the country's pre-democratic history - just a few decades past - is still a fresh memory for many and has yet to find its final resting place in the collective culture.