News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week March 31st to April 6th 2005.
Heart attack victim receives tardy attention
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
AN ALHAURÍN EL GRANDE MAN DIED AFTER SUFFERING THREE HEART ATTACKS WHILST WAITING 45 MINUTES FOR AN AMBULANCE, HIGHLIGHTING THE AREA’S URGENT NEED FOR A HOSPITAL
The incident occurred as Juan Plaza, 57, better known in the town as Juan ‘El Morao’, was awaiting the Good Friday procession in Calle San Sebastián, along with hundreds of other people.
The Town Hall says an ambulance had to be called from the neighbouring town of Coín because Alhaurín el Grande’s only ambulance was taking a patient to Málaga. In a press release, the Town Hall complained that “the town was without medical service. A town of over 20,000 people, and that on a day like Good Friday doubles its population.”
In the three quarters of an hour that it took the ambulance to arrive, a doctor, a nurse and two firemen who happened to be in the crowd attempted to treat the victim, but had no equipment or medical resources at their disposal.
The ambulance had to stop in Cártama and transfer the man to another ambulance, as it lacked the appropriate equipment for treating heart attacks. The next day the man died at Málaga’s Hospital Clínico.
Family members of the victim promised to file a suit against the Junta de Andalucía’s Health Department. “This is a life that could have been saved, and that was lost because of a lack of medical services that everybody has a right to,” said a family spokesperson.
PRO-REGIONAL HOSPITAL PLATFORM
With the recently created Pro-Regional Hospital Platform of the Guadalhorce Valley having already begun work to lobby for the creation of a true regional hospital for the area, another group has added its voice to the call. In this case it was the socialist PSOE party, the same political party that rules the Junta de Andalucía regional government, whose Health Department makes decisions on hospitals and medical centres.
In a meeting last week, PSOE representatives from the Guadalhorce Valley met with the party’s secretary general in Andalucía, Marisa Bustinduy, and the Junta’s provincial delegates for Health and Government Administration. There were representatives from Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande, Álora, Alozaina, Ardales, Cártama, Casarabonela, Coín, Guaro, Monda, Pizarra, Tolox and Yunquera.
URGENT MEETING TODAY
Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall has called a meeting for today Thursday, March 31, to inform residents about the Pro-Regional Hospital Platform and to collect signatures from all those who wish to pledge their support. The meeting is at 20.00 in the 'Salón de Usos Múltiples' on the ground level of the municipal market.
‘Airport city’ to be located in Alhaurín
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
IT WAS REVEALED LAST WEEK THAT THE PLANNED ‘AIRPORT CITY’ THAT WILL HOUSE SERVICES AND SUPPORT FACILITIES FOR THE EXPANDED MÁLAGA AIRPORT IS TO BE LOCATED MOSTLY IN ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE RATHER THAN IN MÁLAGA ITSELF.
The placement of the facility is one of the many development issues that are being decided as the Junta de Andalucía creates the new ‘POT’ (‘Plan de Ordenación del Territorio’) regional growth plan for the Málaga metropolitan area.
According to Alhaurín Mayor Joaquín Villanova, the town’s draft urban growth plan (PGOU) includes the setting aside of a property “quite a bit bigger than the current Parque Tecnológico” business park for the creation of the ‘airport city’. The zone could include such airport-support infrastructure as hotels, airline food catering companies and rental car agencies, among other things. It will not have housing, according to the mayor. It is expected that the ‘airport city’ will become functional sometime after 2008.
MÁLAGA’S CONTROVERSIAL POT
Alhaurín’s final PGOU, along with those of some other towns, is pending the approval of the Málaga metropolitan area POT, which covers Málaga, Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande, Almogía, Cártama, Casabermeja, Totalán and Rincón de la Victoria. The POT is currently in development and its details have not yet been made public.
Officials say they want to ensure a good exchange of information between the drafters of local PGOUs and those creating the POT, to ensure compatibility and avoid the type of problems that have surrounded the Western Costa del Sol POT. When that plan was unveiled in December it caused widespread disputes and attracted some 700 amendment requests that are now being reviewed.
Suspect in Mijas murders jailed
NEWS Staff Reporter
The suspect arrested in connection with the murder of a foreign couple in Mijas, identified as Paul Francis B. (51), from Manchester, has been jailed in the Alhaurín de la Torre prison after making initial statements before an investigating judge. According to reports of the man’s testimony, he denied involvement in the killings and said that on the night of the crime he had drunk quite a bit and woke up to find G.I.L., the female victim, stabbed on the sofa and a fire burning in the rubbish bin. The man, who is described as a friend of the victims’ who often stayed at their home in the rural La Atalaya area of Mijas, claimed he put out the fire with a hose and then went to call for help. He also said he heard the screams of his friend L.D.N., the male victim, who firefighters later found dead with multiple stab wounds about 100 metres from the house.
The Guardia Civil investigators who initially arrested Paul Francis indicated that they found too many holes in his story – one being that he said he walked some two kilometres up the dirt track from the house to call for help from a restaurant, while there was a car at the scene he could have used. The judge also found “too many contradictions,” including the fact that, while the man’s hands were completely clean, investigators found blood on the underside of his watchband and on a lottery ticket inside his wallet. The judge ordered that the suspect be held in jail pending further investigation.
The murdered couple, a British man and his wife, ran the Patsy’s Parrot bar in the Los Boliches area of Fuengirola. The crime occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, March 18. The woman’s body was found burned beyond recognition inside the house, which when firefighters arrived was aflame and emitting a smell of petrol or a similar solvent.
Former Marbella Mayor sentenced to jail
By David Eade
The judge presiding over Málaga’s criminal court No.5 has sentenced the former Mayor of Marbella, Julián Muñoz, to six months in jail and banned him from holding public office for a further eight years.
Six other councillors from the GIL era at Marbella Town Hall were also on trail and all received the same sentence. They were all found guilty of a town planning offence by granting a building licence in the protected ‘Banana Beach’ area of the town.
The offence took place during the period when Jesús Gil was Mayor of Marbella. Had he not died last year he would have been in the dock with his former government team. Muñoz, who was a close ally of Gil, replaced him as mayor but was forced out of office when former members of the GIL party passed a vote of no confidence in him backed by PSOE and Partido Andalucista councillors.
During his short term in office, Julián Muñoz received much criticism for his high-profile affair with famous singer Isabel Pantoja.
Warning over internet banking fraud
By David Eade
People who bank on-line both in Spain and the UK should be aware of attempts by fraudsters to gain access to their accounts. The Spanish banking authorities have warned that on-line clients of the Caja Madrid and Cajamar have recently been targeted. However fake emails are currently also being sent out in the names of many British High Street banks as well.
In both Spain and Britain the modus operandi of the would be fraudsters is very similar. They set up fake websites in the same style as those operated by the bank or building society. Emails are then sent out indiscriminately hoping to trap a client of the named bank.
The email to the client usually claims to be part of an anti-fraud campaign by the financial institution. They are asked to use a link to access the fake website where they will be requested to give details in the case of Spain of their DNI and access codes to their accounts.
The first such case of this type occurred in Spain in 2003 when a client of the BBVA was targeted. Since then there have been similar campaigns against clients of the Banco Popular and Banesto. Now it is the turn of Caja Madrid and Cajamar with the Madrid bank stating it has been the target of the fraudsters since February but suffered a massive attack on Easter Tuesday. The warning to on-line bank clients is clear. Do not respond to any email request for personal information and if in doubt contact your bank branch directly.
Pet dogs and cats to be microchipped
Junta de Andalucía to pass new law
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT IS SET TO PASS INTO LAW A DECREE THAT WILL OBLIGE ALL THE OWNERS OF DOGS, CATS AND FERRETS TO HAVE THEIR PETS MICROCHIPPED SO AS TO COMPLY WITH EU REGULATIONS.
The microchipping programme has three purposes: to guarantee the correct identification of domestic animals, to facilitate the sanitary programmes to avoid illness and also to ease the recovery of lost or missing animals.
Vets will provide a microchipping service for all pet owners at a fixed cost of 30 euros for each animal. The time limit set for having a pet fitted with the chip is three months after birth or within a month of purchase. Failure to comply with the new law could result in the pet owner facing fines of between 500 and 2,000 euros.
The regional government will shortly enact the new law and once it is in place vets will be required to check that dogs, cats and ferrets have a microchip before they give them an injection or treatment. If the pet does not have a microchip the vets will be obliged to advise the owner of the law.
The microchip will record electronically the breed, colour and sex of the animal as well as details of the owner and the vet. This information will be passed to the appropriate department at the local town hall which will be under governmental co-ordination in case the data should be required in the event of a health crisis.
The new regulations will not apply to pet owners from outside Andalucía who spend less than three months in the region. Animal refuges will not be affected but they will be supplied with machines to enable them to read the chips of dogs and cats they receive.
According to the regional government there are currently around 400,000 animals with microchips of which 350,000 are dogs. Officials believe the annual census will rise to a million dogs, cats and ferrets in a 12-month period after the new law is enforced. Once implemented the law in Andalucía will be the most advanced in Spain.
Hospital growing even before completion
NEWS Staff Reporter
The owners of the new private hospital that is currently in the final phases of construction in Benalmádena have already announced plans for its expansion. Construction of the Xanit hospital in its originally planned form is expected to be complete before summer. The owners say that the completion date remains on schedule, and that the planned expansion will be undertaken while the hospital is in operation. The plan announced last week is for the hospital to grow from its original 142-bed capacity to 300 beds. The expansion will bring the total investment in the hospital to over 70 million euros, according to the owners, and the enlarged facility will employ some 500 people.
The private hospital is being built in the zone known as Finca Gilbert, between Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena Pueblo. It is located adjacent to the Andalucía Health Service’s (SAS) public hospital, which is also currently under construction and is scheduled for completion next year. The SAS hospital will have 50 beds, surgery theatres, a number of medical specialisations and a heliport for emergency arrivals. As a diagnostic and treatment centre, it will offer patients the possibility of seeing a specialist, undergoing tests and receiving diagnostic results all in the same visit, according to officials.
Yukos denies money-laundering link
Russian oil giant defends itself in ‘White Whale’ case
By David Eade
The Russian petroleum company Yukos has spoken out against allegations linking it with the ‘Ballena Blanca’ (‘White Whale’) money laundering arrests in Marbella and the Costa del Sol.
The company has stated that the arrest of one of its employees in the wide-spread detentions in Marbella on March 10 was of a “peripheral” nature and also revealed that its representatives met with the Spanish authorities on March 18.
During the meeting, the legal representatives of Yukos demanded that the Spanish authorities clarify the relationship between their company and the money-laundering investigation. They also sought an explanation as to why Interior Minister José Antonio Alonso had named Yukos during a press conference after the ‘White Whale’ arrests.
Yukos insisted that it was not a client of the law firm DVA or of its owner, the lawyer Fernando del Valle. The company stressed that it had no activities in Spain or any links with the two Dutch citizens accused of transferring funds to Harlem and The Hague.
A Yukos spokesperson said the company has offered its full co-operation to the Spanish authorities but also criticised the fact that its reputation had been damaged with “unsubstantiated allegations.” Yukos confirmed that it wished to give Spain all possible assistance but at the same time insisted it was not involved.
Speaking in Cádiz, Minister Alonso stated that the fight against organised crime was a top priority for the government. He said nothing must be allowed to interfere with the professional work of the State’s security forces as they investigate “the complex money laundering and organised crime networks that are located in the south of Spain, in other parts of the country and the EU.”
Meanwhile, employees of the DVA law firm have returned to work to handle their clients business, which has lain unattended since the courts ordered the offices closure on March 10. In the raids that accompanied the sealing of the offices, all DVA employees were arrested but the majority were released without bail. Only the company founder, Chilean-born Fernando de Valle, is currently being held in Alhaurín de la Torre prison awaiting trail.
Vélez tram to arrive late
By Dave Jamieson
The trams to be used on the new light-transport link between Vélez-Málaga and Torre del Mar are likely to be the same as those planned for Sevilla’s new metro system. While the company which is eventually awarded the concession to operate the service will be free to consider other options, Vélez Mayor Antonio Souvirón says that the vehicles built by CAF for the regional capital’s new underground are almost certain to be chosen. Each of the two 2.5 million-euro units would be 31 metres long, have a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour and carry 54 passengers seated with a further 148 standing. The bi-directional articulated vehicles will also have disabled access.
The application to operate the ‘tranvía’ submitted by a consortium formed by Alsina Graells, Continental Rail and Sando (CDSN, Mar. 24 - 30) is understood to have passed an inspection by municipal technicians, and is due to be debated by a full Council meeting this week. A decision on its acceptance is anticipated early next month. However, given the delay in awarding the concession after the first invitation to tender was abandoned, the Town Hall now says that the service is unlikely to be ready to operate when construction work is complete. With a delivery time of six months for the tramcars, an opening day is now being predicted for the end of the year.
Alarm over Costa gas exploration
'Ramform Explorer' to start prospecting in September
By David Eade
THE COSTA DEL SOL TOURISM SECTOR HAS EXPRESSED ITS ALARM THAT THE REPSOL SEARCH FOR GAS OFF THE COASTLINE COULD DAMAGE THE REGION'S TOURISM IMAGE.
It is understood that the Spanish energy giant will carry out its prospecting campaign over an 800 square kilometre zone stretching from Puerto de Cabopino in Marbella in the west to Puerto Caleta de Vélez in the east.
The coast's fishing industry has already shown its concern by staging demonstrations as the inshore fleets fear that the exploration could damage their fishing beds. They had called for the work to be delayed until May to coincide with the break imposed on the industry to allow the recuperation of fishing stocks. However as a concession to the fishing industry Repsol has now announced that it will not start work until September to allow for proper negotiations with the fishing fleets.
It is doubtful that the six-month delay will allay the alarm amongst the tourism sector chiefs however. They fear that the sight of the exploration vessel 'Ramform Explorer' working just a mile or two off the coast between Marbella and Fuengirola could harm the image of their principal tourism product - the beaches. At certain times during the exploration programme the vessel will produce eight-second blasts of sound reaching 127 decibels caused by compressed air.
Once the exploration campaign gets underway the first phase will last for 35 days on a 24-hour basis but its actual duration will depend on the weather conditions. Much of the vessel's work off the coast of Benalmádena, Torremolinos and Vélez Málaga will be up to 20 kilometres from the beaches but that is not the case in the Marbella to Fuengirola zone.
The presence of the 'Ramform Explorer' will also impact on more than just the view from the beach. When operational the vessel will be towing seven cables of 4,500 metres in length so for safety reasons the use of jet skis and leisure boats will be restricted and diving will be banned in the active prospecting zone.
Repsol has been given permission to search for natural gas off the Málaga coastline by the Ministry of Industry in Madrid as it considers the work to be 'in the national interest'. The total search area covers an area of 2,067 square kilometres divided into three zones and Repsol has permission to carry out exploration over a six-year period.
Nerja marina debate continues
By Dave Jamieson
The on-going debate over whether the eastern coast will ever get a new marina has been heightened by the promise of Nerja's mayor to continue raising the subject with the regional government at every opportunity. The opposition socialists at the Town Hall, however, have passed on to him the Junta de Andalucía's recommendation that he should remain "calm". José Alberto Armijo is determined that Nerja should have a marina, despite fierce competition from Rincón de la Victoria and Nerja's western neighbour, Torrox. With the Council having previously approved his motion to ask the Junta to start the ball rolling in the procedure to award the administrative concession for a new sporting facility to Nerja, the mayor has now undertaken to continue to table such motions at his Council meetings until he receives a response from Andalucía's ports authority, the EPPA. He underlined that, "in the case of continued silence to the request, the motion will be raised for debate at all Council meetings." Sr Armijo has also asked for an urgent meeting with the EPPA's representative, Monserrat Badía, but his actions have been severely criticised by opposition PSOE councillors at the Town Hall who say he should not "persistently seek confrontation" on the subject. The next door municipality of Torrox, where the PSOE runs the Town Hall, is said to be the front runner to get the marina, with Calaceite beach, almost on the Nerja-Torrox border, the likely site. However, the Partido Popular controlled Town Hall in Nerja says they have heard nothing from the EPPA in the six months since the mayor's last meeting with Sra. Badía, despite Sr Armijo's repeated calls for information.
Noise nuisances tackled by Málaga
BY DAVE JAMIESON
MÁLAGA TOWN HALL IS PREPARING TO INTRODUCE HEAVY PENALTIES FOR THOSE BREAKING NEW CITY REGULATIONS ON NOISE. INDIVIDUALS OR BUSINESSES WHICH FAIL TO OBSERVE THE RELEVANT BY-LAWS COULD FACE A FINE OF AS MUCH AS 300,000 EUROS UNDER THE NEW LEGISLATION WHICH IS IN ITS FINAL STAGES OF PREPARATION.
Establishments which are found to be causing a noise nuisance may also be closed for a period of not less than two years.
Town Halls across Andalucía have been under pressure to tackle noise pollution for some years, and the appearance of the phenomenon known as “el botellón” – large, informal gatherings of mainly young people in town centre streets late at night consuming alcohol bought from shops, rather than bars – has brought hundreds of complaints from angry residents who have been unable to sleep as a result. Málaga plans to tackle this by prohibiting any groups of people drinking in the streets or squares between 22.00 and 8.00. Local police will have powers to intervene at such “botellones” and arrest those who fail to heed a warning to leave.
The other major cause of complaint to Town Halls has been the noise caused by motorcycles which have been deliberately tampered with to make them noisier, in direct contravention of legal requirements. Under the city’s new rules, Málaga’s local officers will soon be able to confiscate any vehicle, including mopeds and motorcycles, found to be exceeding noise limits. This means that instant action can be taken against two-wheeled road users who have adjusted the exhaust silencer or use the warning horn excessively.
In a wide-ranging set of proposals, Málaga’s streets and public areas will be kept free of singing and musical instruments, unless authorised by the Town Hall, while goods loading and unloading will be banned between 22.00 and 8.00 in residential areas. Repairs and construction work will only be permitted between 8.00 and 20.00, with a later starting time of 9.30 at weekends and on holidays. Pets will not be permitted on open spaces, such as balconies, between 10.00 and 8.00 and individuals will be obliged to ensure the noise from radio and television sets does not exceed permitted levels.
INFRACTIONS AND FINES
Infractions will be classified in three bands. The most serious incidents will result in fines between 12,000 and 300,000 euros, lesser problems will attract payments of 601 to 12,000 euros, with sums of up to 600 euros imposed on the least serious. In summer of 2003, Vélez-Málaga received a court order to pay 12,000 euros compensation to each of 19 residents in a Torre del Mar block who had complained about late night noise from bars.
Guardia Civil patrols in unmarked cars
By Oliver McIntyre
The Guardia Civil's Traffic Authority (Tráfico) has acquired 132 unmarked cars to patrol the nation's roads for dangerous infractions like reckless speeding, illegal passing, drunk driving, failure to use seatbelts or child car seats, and using a mobile phone while driving. One area of special focus will be seatbelt use, which drivers have become more lax about using, according to officials.
The new unmarked patrol cars, which look like regular passenger vehicles, are not equipped with radar to patrol for basic speeding. The Guardia Civil already has 124 other radar-equipped unmarked patrol cars for that purpose.
The province of Málaga received three of the new unmarked cars, while throughout the region of Andalucía there are 21. The cars will be rotated between different parts of the country to keep them unrecognisable to drivers, according to Tráfico authorities.
Officers in the unmarked cars will be uniformed but will not wear their patrol cap. When they identify an infraction, they will pull behind the vehicle in question and use a megaphone to order the driver to pull over. The patrol cars are also equipped with electronic screens that flash the words 'alto' (stop) and 'G. Civil'.
The new unmarked cars are aimed at reducing traffic accidents, according to officials. Better patrolling measures "provide the fastest results, because those geared at raising driver awareness have a slower effect," said provincial Tráfico chief Luis Lorenzo. The national head of Tráfico, Pere Navarro, added that with the unmarked patrol cars the goal is to keep drivers guessing, as "any vehicle might be a patrol car."
The new unmarked patrol cars rolled out last week during the 'Semana Santa' holidays, traditionally one of the biggest traffic periods of the year with a high accident and traffic-death rate. Despite the new patrols, the death toll on the nation's roads during Holy Week was 105, slightly more than last year, when there were 103 traffic fatalities during Semana Santa.