Costa del Sol News - 27th July 2005

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week July 21st to July 27th 2005.


Have-a-go victim seriously injured


Brian C., 61, from Ipswich, Suffolk, received gunshot wounds when he attempted to chase off four masked burglars after awaking to find them rummaging through the house. The intruders also pistol-whipped his wife Linda before making off with a watch and a necklace.

The victim was rushed to Málaga’s Hospital Clínico Universitario, to undergo extensive surgery for internal damage from a bullet wound to his abdomen. After the operation he was admitted to the intensive care unit and was described as being in critical condition.

Guardia Civil investigators are seeking to identify the armed robbers, who they believe may be a South American or Eastern European gang. The robbery, in the Buenavista area of Alhaurín, was one of several violent home invasions in the Costa area.

Meanwhile, another gang has been arrested for at least 14 burglaries on the Costa. The leader of the group – made up of four men and one woman – was a 26-year-old Albanian named Jetmir M., described by police as being ex-Yugoslav army.
The gang is alleged to have broken into houses while the owners were home, scaling fences and entering through open windows or, if none were open, using glass-cutters. Once inside, they used aerosol gas to sedate the victims while they stole money, jewellery, car keys and other items.

This investigation began in Estepona, leading to the arrest of the first of the gang members. Later, the four additional suspects were arrested in Torremolinos, where officers seized a number of stolen goods as well as glass-cutting equipment, an acetylene torch, climbing shoes and other materials. Police say the gang committed at least 14 house robberies; seven in Estepona, four in Torremolinos and three in Vélez-Málaga.

The British consul in Málaga, Bruce McIntyre, told Costa del Sol News that such armed or violent home robberies have ‘suddenly, over the last two or three weeks, seen an increase’. In fact, just a little over a week ago the National Police announced they were stepping up patrolling in Costa areas believed to be high target zones for house robberies (CDSN, July 14 – 20). But the zones identified for increased patrols were mostly in towns along the coast, not inland towns like the Alhauríns.

“I don’t think it’s aimed at foreigners particularly,” said Mr McIntyre. “The robbers are just as likely to target any vulnerable-appearing home. People just have to be careful,” he advised.


Dangerous British gang rounded up on the costa

Group trafficked in cocaine and hashish destined for the UK


The police action was against a major British gang that trafficked in drugs and also money laundering. The minister of the interior, José Antonio Alonso, stated that the operation had seen most of the gang’s assets seized and explained that these were in the form of property worth 20 million euros. It is believed that in total the gang handled around 50 million euros.

Of the 13 arrested, four have been imprisoned and another seven have been detained under international arrest warrants. The group is alleged to have trafficked in cocaine and hashish destined for Liverpool and Yorkshire in the UK.

The head of the gang is said to be a Pakistani-born Briton who is currently in prison in England but owns a house on the Señorio urbanisation in Nueva Andalucía in Marbella. It is claimed that he controlled a wide network of collaborators, couriers and intermediaries in Spain, the UK and Dubai. The proceeds from the drug trafficking were laundered in Britain where the cash was converted into euros. Amongst the groups’ investments were a British airline and Indian-based companies.

The gang is said to be very dangerous and three of those arrested were accused of murder and attempted murder in the UK. Another is wanted in connection with a murder in Holland that related to a drugs’ deal that went wrong.


Alhaurín has new health centre

NEWS Staff Reporter

The new Alhaurín de la Torre health centre opened its doors to patients for the first time on Monday, following an official inauguration ceremony last Thursday. The new 2,170-square-metre facility, located in the El Nogal urbanisation, replaces the existing health centre and is designed to meet the needs of not just the town’s existing 27,000 residents, but also future growth, up to a population of 40,000, according to officials.

The two-storey health centre has 16 general practitioner offices, three paediatrics offices, a dentistry office and a rehabilitation facility. It is equipped with a radiology unit for x-rays. Below the building is an 88-space underground parking garage for patients and staff. The total cost of the facility was 2.3 million euros, financed jointly by the Town Hall and the Junta de Andalucía.

Mayor Joaquín Villanova and the head of Junta’s Health Department, María Jesús Montero, officially inaugurated the new centre last Thursday. They offered a special tribute to its namesake, the late José Molina Díaz ‘El Practicante’, a house-calls nurse who served the town for many years. The centre after him in honour of his “dedication, devotion and sacrifice, and the lasting impression his work left on all of the town’s residents,” they said. His widow and children were presented with a commemorative plaque and the Málaga Nursing Association’s gold medal of honour.


Vélez police monitor illegal summer businesses

By Dave Jamieson

Police in Vélez-Málaga have stepped up their inspections of commercial premises. The Town Hall has announced a summer campaign to check on opening licences, business activities, safety and sound-proofing. The move comes in response to the large number of businesses which open during the peak tourist period, but remain closed the rest of the year.
The councillor responsible. Sara Sánchez, said that the inspections, which continue throughout the year, are being increased to ensure all commercial operations meet their legal obligations. She said that local police officers would be paying special attention to the areas where people gather to socialise during the summer months and which generate the most complaints of excessive noise. The councillor said that while some businesses have regularised their situations by installing sound-proofing, nuisance from noisy bars still produces frequent problems.

Local police in Vélez, supported by National officers, are also increasing their mobile patrols of these areas on the lookout for drink-driving and the failure of motorcyclists to wear a safety helmet. In addition, patrols are operating along the paseo marítimo in Torre del Mar to ensure that establishments observe their required closing times.


Public outcry over Nerja mopeds

Residents call for action against dangerous riders

By Dave Jamieson

Calls for police action follow two serious accidents in the town, one last week in which an elderly man was hospitalised after being hit by a moped and the other last month which left a 41-year-old woman dead and her eight-year-old son injured after a rider ploughed into them on a pedestrian crossing.

A letter to the police, signed by a number of residents, expresses worries about safety in the town, and demands that a “firm hand” be taken against those responsible. It continues: “As pedestrians and also as drivers, we are extremely concerned for our physical well-being in Nerja’s streets. Those who ride motorcycles show no respect for traffic signs.”
Local police have responded with an increased presence on street corners, stopping riders and inspecting their vehicles. They claim that, already this month, more than 100 sanctions have been issued for failing to wear a safety helmet, and that so far this year, 1,300 fines have been imposed on riders for a variety of offences, including dangerous driving, speeding and drink-driving.

Nerja’s councillor for Security, Rafael Rivas, said that road-safety-education campaigns run in local schools and colleges will continue in the new academic year. Only last month, the councillor announced a new campaign to stop motorcyclists not wearing safety helmets, but only to advise of them of the requirement and not to prosecute or fine them.

Town security has also come under scrutiny, with concerns expressed about continuing clashes around Tutti Frutti square between Nerja youths and gangs from outside the town, particularly on weekend nights. The situation is reported to have worsened in the last two months, with fights resulting in a number of serious knife injuries. Antonio Miguel Navas, representing the local Andalucista group at the Town Hall, has now called for an urgent meeting of the local security committee to address these problems, as well as the increasing number of robberies reported since the arrival of summer. Councillor Rivas responded by increasing the number of local police officers on duty at night in the affected areas, and by asking the Guardia Civil to do the same.


Two Britons injured in Gib crash

NEWS Staff Reporter

A 19-year-old Englishman is critically ill in hospital following a violent car crash in Gibraltar on Saturday. Police witnessed the car travelling at high speed minutes before it glanced off a parked vehicle and smashed into the back of a stationary flatbed truck.

An eyewitness described the collision as being “like an explosion,” as the impact pushed the truck into the middle of the road then into the back of another parked vehicle, which it rammed into a wall. Rescue personnel worked for over an hour to free the driver, using powered mechanical cutters to remove the roof of the vehicle. At one point the fire brigade had to hose down the engine when it started to smoulder.

The young man was treated at the scene by ambulance staff and a doctor before being taken to St Bernard’s hospital. He was later transferred to hospital in Cádiz but is now back in intensive care on the Rock. The passenger in the vehicle, a 20-year-old Englishman, also sustained injuries, though they were not as serious as the driver’s.


Fuengirola tops economic performance survey

The Costa town is amongst the country’s top twenty


In the survey carried out by La Caixa bank, Fuengirola is amongst the top 20 municipalities in Spain for economic growth since the last such survey was carried out five years ago.

The survey compared such variables as the income per inhabitant per annum between the years 1999 and 2004. In that period, Fuengirola showed an economic growth of between 42 and 50 per cent compared with the Andalucía average of between 26 and 34 per cent and that for Málaga between 24 and 42 per cent.

Other indicators showed an annual population growth of 4.9 per cent, gave an annual income figure for ‘fuengiroleños’ of between 9,300 and 10,200 euros and a rise in industrial activity in the municipality of 84.2 per cent over the five-year period.

In contrast the report issued by La Caixa shows the reality of life in the Campo de Gibraltar region. The findings indicate that La Línea is the poorest town in Spain amongst those with a population of 50,000 or over.
The province of Cádiz provided the top eight of the poorest towns. In second place was Sanlúcar, followed by Algeciras (3rd), Cádiz (4th), Chiclana (5th), Jerez (6th), El Puerto de Santa María (7th) and San Fernando (8th).
In La Línea the average income is between 7,200 and 8,300 euros a year whilst in Sanlúcar and Algeciras the average is slightly higher between 8,300 and 9,300 euros per annum. As an average Cádiz Province has an average income of not higher than 8,300 euros.


Anti-smoking laws approach on the Costa

By Dave Jamieson


Results from a survey in Nerja indicate that Spain’s imminent anti-smoking legislations may not be the disaster which some bars and restaurants have been dreading.
When new laws become effective at the end of this year, bars and restaurants of more than 100 square metres will be able to allocate up to 30 per cent of the space for smokers, provided it is physically separated from the remainder and that smoke extractors are installed. Smaller establishments will be allowed to decide whether or not to permit smoking, provided that this is made clear to clients on a display board at the entrance.

When the plans were unveiled, Rafael Prado, president of the Málaga association of hotel and catering businesses, said that central government was trying to implement an impossible law, which would bring his members many problems. He added that the proposed legislation was kinder to smaller establishments, saying that its “absurd” requirements would put business owners in a difficult position.

Positive attitude in Nerja to non-smoking bars
However, research undertaken by a new bar-restaurant in Nerja suggests that the public is more relaxed about the coming change. Ahead of their imminent opening, the owners of Camaleón on Burriana Beach have discovered that only 12 per cent of their potential clients would avoid a wholly non-smoking establishment. Although the number of respondents in their survey of residents and holiday-makers was relatively small, the total of 83 per cent who said they would visit a non-smoking bar or restaurant has convinced them to declare a complete ban inside and on their front terrace, although they have conceded a rear outside terrace for smokers.

Amongst those questioned who were presently smokers, a fifth said they would not patronise a no-smoking bar, 10 per cent were undecided, but 70 per cent indicated they would be happy to. That figure rose to 88 per cent amongst those who were non-smokers. There were few differences between the sexes with 84 per cent of men and 83 per cent of women surveyed replying that they would go into a non-smoking bar.

One of Camaleón’s partners, Mark Johnson, said he knew they were “taking a risk” although official studies indicate that the majority of both Spanish (64 per cent) and British (79 per cent) people do not smoke. However, he pointed out that of Nerja’s 350 bars and restaurants, none has yet employed a complete smoking ban, despite the statistics
The new Government rules also mean that smoking will be totally prohibited in places of work, health centres, public buildings, on public transport and in night clubs which admit minors, amongst other places. Statistics indicate that habitual smokers total 9.6 million people of 16 years or more in Spain - 29.1 per cent of the population - while 50,000 people died throughout the country as the result of smoking-related illnesses last year.


Culture feast in Nerja and Vélez


While the Nerja Caves Festival is already underway, Vélez-Málaga’s International Guitar Festival and Competition opens on Saturday.
The 46th annual festival of music and dance in Nerja’s famous caves was scheduled to open on Tuesday night with an evening of dance in which the traditional Andalucían art form was central. Performances are given deep underground, continuing a tradition which in recent years has welcomed to Nerja world-class artistes, such as Rostropovich, Montserrat Caballé and Kiri Te Kanawa. Audiences of about 600 gather in a cavern, La Sala de la Cascada, where superb acoustics create a natural concert hall.

The event dates from 1960, the year when the recently discovered complex of caves at Maro was inaugurated as a public attraction. That year, the Ballet La Tour de París performed a programme including scenes from Tchaikowsky’s “Swan Lake”, believed to be the first time in history that ballet had been performed in such a setting. Celebrities from the worlds of art, culture and politics were invited to attend, and the reaction both in Spain and abroad persuaded the administrators to celebrate the caves’ discovery in the same way every year. The Festival held every July is now an internationally recognised cultural event which attracts performers and visitors from around the world.

Tonight, the Cuban jazz pianist, Bebo Valdés, brings his quartet to the Caves. At the official launch of this year’s festival programme, the president of the Caves Foundation, Hilario López Luna, described Valdés’ appearance as evidence that the event was “open to other styles of music”. Valdés, a legendary Cuban band leader in the ‘50s, is now in his eighth decade. He was the musical assessor of the famous cabaret in Havana, “El Tropicana”, but has lived in exile in Stockholm since 1960. Five years ago, he appeared in Fernando Trueba’s film “Calle 54” in which he played jazz interpretations with his son Chucho, also a noted musician.

Tomorrow and Saturday will be given over to performances of a music and dance spectacular, led by Málaga’s Jesús Reina, said to be one of the top five young violinists in the world. The programme is centred on the music of Bach, with choreography by Goyo Montero.

Each night’s concert is scheduled to start at 22.00, and tickets, with a uniform price of 50 euros, are, as ever, in heavy demand.

Meanwhile in Vélez-Málaga, the International Guitar Festival and Competition runs from this Saturday until Friday 29, with events at 21.30 every evening in the Palacio de Beniel. The event was founded and is still guided by Javier García Moreno, director of the Conservatory of Music in Torre del Mar, who is himself a guitar player of international note.
It combines some of the best classical guitarists in the world playing and teaching, along with a prestigious competition to find new talent. This year’s will be the 14th Festival and will include master-classes and recitals from Ahmet Kanneci, the noted Turkish concert guitarist who enjoys a large following in Latin America, and from the Argentinean player Roberto Ausell, making a return visit to Vélez.

The competition will be held in two phases, with an elimination evening on Wednesday 27 and the final the following night. The panel of judges, headed by Roberto Ausell, will award the winner 3,000 euros, a concert guitar made by Arturo Sanzano of Madrid worth 4,000 euros, and an invitation to give a recital at the 2006 Festival.


New late-night bus service on Costa

By Oliver McIntyre

The Metropolitan Area Transport Consortium has launched a programme to provide extended night-time bus service between Málaga, Rincón de la Victoria and Benalmádena. The service, which will run through September 15, is aimed at providing young people an alternative to driving when they go out for a night on the town or at one of the Costa’s nightlife zones, like Benalmádena’s Puerto Marina.

The late-night summer schedule extends the Málaga-Benalmádena service from its usual midnight cut-off time to 06.00. On the Málaga-Rincón run, service ends at 04.00, rather than the usual 23.00.

The consortium, which serves a total of 12 towns in the Málaga metropolitan area, has also launched a special beach-run service from Alhaurín el Grande and Alhaurín de la Torre to Guadalmar. Buses leave Alhaurín el Grande at 11.00 and 15.00, stopping in Alhaurín de la Torre around 15 to 20 minutes later. Return buses leave Guadalmar at 14.00 and 20.00.


Benalmádena shoots for film glory

By Oliver McIntyre

Officials from Benalmádena last week attended the First Conference of the Andalucía Film Commission Network, held in Sevilla. The Costa town is home to one of the 39 official film offices in the region, and was the first town in the province of Málaga to sign on with the Andalucía Film Commission (AFC), in 1999.

At the conference mayors, AFC officials and the president of the Spain Film Commission discussed ways to further promote the region as a shooting location for Spanish and international movie, television or advertisement producers. Andalucía is the region of the country that attracts the greatest number of film shoots, according to the AFC, which helped to coordinate 1,330 of them last year.

As part of the conference, representatives from the local film offices received a newly printed AFC best-practices manual for attracting and coordinating film productions. Benalmádena officials say the guidelines will be incorporated into the local office’s existing procedures, which already offer streamlined handling of location requests, including the issuance of filming permits in less than 24 hours.

The AFC is also working with the Junta de Andalucía’s Tourism and Sport Department to create a ‘Movie Map’ that will offer tourists a guide to locations that were used for filming well-known international or Spanish films. The project is scheduled to begin next year.

So far this year, the Benalmádena film office has coordinated film shoots for five feature-length movies, four shorts and five advertisements, as well as two photo shoots. It is currently working with a Korean production team that is interested in shooting scenes in the town’s bullring, and an Indian crew looking to film at Puerto Marina.


Fire fighters killed in forest blaze

Guadalajara national park tragedy claims eleven lives

By David Eade

The Guardia Civil were alerted on Saturday that a fire had started in the zone and within an hour fire teams backed up by a helicopter were at the scene. The fire was still raging on the Sunday by which time three fire fighting aircraft and numerous fire teams from all over the region had been called to the area.

It was on Sunday afternoon that the 11 fire fighters became trapped at Otero de Santa María when a strong gust of wind blew the flames in their direction and all were burnt to death. It was not till 07.00 on Monday morning that rescue teams could get to the area to reclaim their charred remains.

Experts have undertaken the task of identifying each member of the group by their DNA so as to save the grieving families and friends more pain. At the time the Costa del Sol News went to print nine of the 11 had been identified and the bodies will soon be released to the families for burial. It is not only those close to the deceased that are in mourning but the whole region as all the men were very much involved with their local communities.

The fire appears to have been caused by a group of five young men, all aged around 30, on a trip to the national park from Madrid. They have been interviewed by the Guardia Civil at Maranchón and one of them has admitted starting the fire by lighting a barbeque even though they had been warned not to. Officers are withholding the identities of the majority of the group for fear of reprisals but did release the name of Marcelino H. He and the others could face prison sentences of up to 10 years.

The deaths of the 11 men are obviously dominating the national news. However the fire has also been an ecological tragedy as it has destroyed a huge area of one of Spain’s major national parks. The flames undoubtedly have erased numerous species of plants in danger of extinction as well as affected 200 types of vertebras of which 126 are listed in the national catalogue of endangered species. The affected park zone is also home to Leonardo vultures, various types of eagles and other raptors.


Health warning about uncooked fish

NEWS Staff Reporter

The Spanish Food Safety Agency (AESA) has issued a health warning about the consumption of uncooked fresh fish due to a potentially harmful larval parasite detected in 36 per cent of fish tested at the country’s fishing docks. The parasite, known as ‘anisakis’, can cause allergic reactions in humans.
According to the AESA, the danger is in eating fresh fish that is raw (such as sushi or sashimi), cured in vinegar rather than cooked (as in the popular Costa dish ‘boquerones en vinagre’) or smoked. The AESA recommends that all fish be either cooked or, if it is to be eaten raw, cured or smoked, be frozen for at least two days prior to preparation and consumption. Both thorough cooking and freezing kill the parasite, which is naturally occurring and is quite common in fish around the world.

The greatest percentage of affected fish was detected in the Bay of Biscay in northern Spain (50 per cent) and the Atlantic (36 per cent), with only six per cent of fish from the Mediterranean testing positive for the parasite. However, in Málaga, for example, heavy summer demand means that 90 per cent of the seafood consumed locally is imported from outside the province, meaning large amounts of fish could come from the areas with higher contamination rates.
Experts say that purveyors of prepared food, like restaurants and bars, are already required to use fish that has been previously frozen when preparing non-cooked fish dishes. They say the AESA warning is of most importance to people preparing their own sushi, ‘boquerones en vinagre’ or similar dishes at home.


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