News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week September 29th to October 5th 2005.
EXPATS DEBATE NOISE PROBLEMS
Foreign residents get their say in specially organized meetings
BY DAVID EADE AND DAVE JAMIESON
THE COUNCILLOR FOR TOURISM AT ESTEPONA TOWN HALL, MARTA SOLÍS, IS HOLDING A SERIES OF MEETINGS WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF FOREIGN RESIDENTS' ORGANISATIONS TO DEBATE NOISE POLLUTION AND OTHER ISSUES.
The key complaints are the boom in building sites, the noise from motorbikes and the state of the beaches in the zones outside of the town centre.
Noise from scooters, mopeds and motorbikes is a serious issue for foreign residents, the councillor being asked if steps could be taken to improve controls. Residents are also annoyed at the state of the beaches away from the main zone in Estepona town centre, whilst others raised more local problems such as those caused by the removal of the Wednesday market to an area on the outskirts, which made it difficult for many people to reach.
NERJA SET TO MOVE
Nerja has set in motion the process of establishing new legislation to control noise in the municipality. The final text will be based on a by-law which governs noise control in the city of Málaga, but the Town Hall wants to hear the views of residents ahead of its final draft. According to the councillor responsible for collecting public opinion, Francisco Fernández, the input of residents' views and suggestions will make Nerja's controls pioneering in the Axarquía.
Bars, traffic and construction work will be amongst the activities to be regulated by the new rules, while local police and municipal officials will be issued with sound meters so that levels can be accurately monitored. The subject of noise is a controversial one in the town which recently participated in a study of noise levels as part of a programme organised by the provinces of Málaga and Almería in communities of between 5,000 and 20,000. The results of that survey have not yet been published, but already a number of Nerja's bars and restaurants in the town have been threatened with closure by the Town Hall after complaints about noise levels.
News of Nerja's move came as local police in Málaga announced that the number of motorcycles confiscated for excessive noise had doubled in a year. In the first six months of this year, more than 1,100 riders received sanctions related to noise levels, more than twice the number in the same period of 2004. Each offender can be fined up to 90 euros.
Political outcry as nuclear sub docks in Gib
Latest docking reopens old diplomatic wounds between Spain and Britain
By David Eade
THE DOCKING OF A NUCLEAR SUBMARINE IN GIBRALTAR HAS ONCE AGAIN STIRRED ANGER AND POLITICAL INFIGHTING AMONG SPANISH OFFICIALS AND BROUGHT TO THE FORE A LONGSTANDING AND SENSITIVE MATTER OF INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY BETWEEN SPAIN AND BRITAIN.
HMS Trenchant, a Trafalgar class nuclear propelled submarine, docked in Gibraltar on Sunday. The vessel is on a short, routine visit after taking part in naval exercises in the North Atlantic. The nuclear sub was launched in 1986 and commissioned three year's later and was last in Gibraltar in 2004.
The visit has led to protests from the Partido Popular in the Campo de Gibraltar area. The party's spokesperson at the association of town halls for the area expressed "unease" at the submarine's arrival. The PP claimed that the development pointed to flaws in the tripartite association and condemned its PSOE president, Juan Montedeoca, saying: "It is lamentable that this should happen at a time when they are talking about excellent relations with Caruana."
It is believed the British government informed Spain about the sub's arrival in Gibraltar on a routine visit. A Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesperson is said to have stated that Madrid had been informed "through the habitual channels."
HISTORY OF CONFLICT
Visits of nuclear submarines to Gibraltar have been a hot issue since HMS Tireless docked there for a year whilst undergoing delicate repairs to its nuclear cooling system. The Partido Popular was then in power in Spain and in May 2001 the then Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Pique, said his British counterpart, Robin Cook, had told him nuclear repairs to British submarines in Gibraltar would cease.
Last month the now socialist Spanish Government stated that it was still waiting for Britain to put in writing "a commitment London had made four years ago to end visits by British nuclear submarines to Gibraltar." However, whilst British politicians may have been willing to consider such a commitment it is believed to have been opposed by the Ministry of Defence, which considers Gibraltar an important support facility for maintenance of nuclear subs.
Last February the nuclear submarine HMS Sceptre docked at the Rock for maintenance, generating a formal protest from Madrid and a complaint from Gibraltar, as its chief minister had not been told in advance of the visit
Marbella mayor hands case to prosecutor
NEWS Staff Reporter
Last week Marbella Mayor Marisol Yagüe sacked two of the three Partido Andalucista councillors who were a key element in her tri-party administration. Out went Carlos Fernández, a deputy mayor who was responsible for the Puerto Banús area, and Pedro Pérez who was in charge of the beaches and cleaning as well as being the PA's provincial secretary. The third member of the PA team, María José Lanzat, resigned after her two colleagues were removed from office.
This week the mayor announced that she has forwarded to Málaga's head prosecutor the findings of her internal investigation into charges against the two sacked PA councillors. She believes Sr Fernández and Sr Pérez must answer to municipal employees' claims that they extorted them, issued fake invoices and paid for political favours using public money. The mayor has not discounted the possibility of a second letter being sent to the prosecutor alleging further irregularities.
The PA councillors are in good company, as currently 17 of the 27 councillors at Marbella Town Hall are facing legal cases of corruption, including the Mayor Yagüe. Meanwhile, Sra Yagüe finds herself leading a minority administration with just 13 of the 27 councillors supporting her. It is still anticipated that she will now seek an alliance with the remaining members of the old GIL party. Although they were once her colleagues, in recent times they have been amongst her sternest critics.
Mum files police complaint over day nursery violen
By Oliver McIntyre
The mother of a four-year-old boy in Benalmádena has filed a police complaint about alleged physical abuse suffered by her son at the hands of other children at his school, the El Tomillar day nursery and primary school in Arroyo de la Miel. According to the mother, on two consecutive days last week the young boy came home from school with bruises and scrapes. On the second occasion, the boy's attackers – it is not clear if they were classmates or older kids from other classes – hit him, knocked him to the floor, dragged him by the neck, whipped him on the back with switches from a tree in the schoolyard and urinated on him, according to the mother's complaint.
The mother, Laura Fiscina, has gone to the Children's Rights Association (Prodeni) for assistance. She wants her son transferred to a new school and for the provincial delegation of the Junta de Andalucía's Education Department to investigate the case and take action to prevent similar incidents in the future. The head of the provincial delegation, José Nieto, said earlier this week that information-gathering proceedings have been opened to investigate and confirm the facts in the case.
Fuengirola protests at Repsol's prospecting plans
Exploration of local coastline's seabed imminent
By David Eade
FUENGIROLA TOWN HALL HAS STRONGLY RESTATED ITS OPPOSITION TO PLANS BY SPANISH PETROLEUM MULTINATIONAL REPSOL TO SEARCH FOR NATURAL GAS UNDER THE SEABED OFF THE LOCAL COASTLINE.
When earlier this year it was announced that Repsol would be prospecting an area of over 300 square kilometres off the Costa del Sol, ecologists and the fishing industry raised the alarm forcing a delay in the start of the project. They were backed at the time by Fuengirola town hall as the prospecting would be carried out close to the coastline and could have a serious effect on the beaches and damage the town's tourist industry.
Now with a start to the prospecting imminent the local authority has once again voiced its opposition by pointing out that so far no technical study has been presented which guarantees that the prospecting would not affect fish stocks in the area. Indeed no report had been produced on the effect the drilling and seismic tests would have on the fish, octopi and shellfish that are fished commercially and form the livelihoods of the Málaga inshore fleets.
Fuengirola's councillor for beaches, Juan Haro, says there is only one report and this concentrates on a small part of the marine fauna, such as whales, dolphins and turtles. He pointed out that they were regular visitors at this time of year as they come from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in search of warmer waters and would be frightened off by the Repsol exploration vessel.
Dangerous tanker in Algeciras Bay
The environmental group, Verdemar – Ecologistas en Acción, has protested at the presence in the Bay of Algeciras of the single hull tanker 'Moskovsky'. The ecologists claim that the Maltese registered vessel only transports crude oil and was expelled from Spanish waters by a Guardia Civil patrol in December 2002 as it presented a danger similar to the Prestige responsible for the ecological disaster off the Galicia coast.
The 'Moskovsky' and all such single hull tankers are prohibited by EU law from approaching within 200 miles of the Spanish, Portuguese or French coasts. According to Verdemar spokesperson, Antonio Muñoz, the vessel is also on the EU's list of dangerous vessels. The Cepsa refinery in San Roque has confirmed that the 'Moskovsky' did unload gas-oil but did not take on a load at the refinery's jetty and stated that the tanker had been modified to carry out such an operation.
The ecologists have sent a letter to the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, asking why this vessel was allowed to enter Algeciras port after it was expelled in 2002 and hence evaded the ban on single hull vessels that was introduced to avoid another environmental disaster. The 'Moskovsky' has now left the bay and Muñoz stated its destination was unknown.
San Pedro car park brick tower
Benalmádena embargo programme
By Oliver McIntyre
Since Benalmádena Town Hall announced two months ago that it planned to open asset embargo proceedings against 6,000 homes or buildings whose owners had failed to pay municipal taxes or fees, it has collected 900,000 euros of the back taxes. Faced with the threat of embargo, many targets of the action – mostly people who were five years or more behind on their taxes – quickly settled accounts to avoid losing their property.
In addition, the Town Hall says 250 embargoed properties will be auctioned off in the near future. First the values of the properties must be assessed, as well as the exact tax debt, including interest and late fees, of the owners. Officials say that before such action is taken property owners have had at least five opportunities to settle their tax debt. They say the embargo programme has been so effective that they are planning to launch a second round, which could affect vehicles, bank accounts or properties.
Tourists held in Granada after major country fire
BY DAVE JAMIESON
A BRITISH MAN AND A FRENCH WOMAN WERE ARRESTED LAST WEEK, ACCUSED OF STARTING A SERIOUS FIRE IN THE SIERRA NEVADA NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH OF GRANADA.
Over 2,610 hectares of land, regarded as being of high ecological value, were destroyed in the blaze which began last Thursday evening near the town of Lanjarón and spread northwards.
Almost 40 aircraft and helicopters were called in from as far away as Toledo and Madrid during the operation which continued overnight and into the weekend, with the support of over 170 fire fighters from Málaga, Almería and Jaén. The outbreak was eventually brought under control at 11.00 on Saturday.
The environment delegate for Granada, Gerardo Sánchez, said that the southern movement of the fire was brought under control fairly quickly, but that the northern edge continued to move towards the town of Nigüelas and the Lecrín valley, as well as the Buitreras de Dúrcal park, and was located in areas with very difficult access. The tinder-dry state of the land plus the abundance of pine needles on the ground and a strong wind encouraged the fire's rapid spread.
The Mayor of Lanjarón, José Rubio, said that it had destroyed pine forest which had taken up to 60 years to re-populate, saying that the incident made him "want to cry". The National Park of the Sierra Nevada is regarded as one of the treasures of European bio diversity and supports the most diverse range of flora and fauna on the continent, according to its director, Javier Sánchez. The fire, which had a front of more than 12 kilometres at one stage, also razed some cultivated land where almonds and chestnuts were being grown.
No injuries were reported and a large-scale evacuation of residents was not required, although around 15 people living in cortijos nearest to the flames were moved in case the wind suddenly changed and blew the fire towards them. 20 students were also evacuated from a Buddhist Centre at Bubión.
BONFIRE OUT OF CONTROL
The 59 year old man and 50 year old woman detained by the Guardia Civil are understood to have started a bonfire, which ran out of control. The couple, who have a holiday home which they have recently finished renovating in Acequias, appeared before a judge in Orgiva who released them without bail, but retained their passports and ordered them to report in every three days. They were also ordered to deposit 18,000 euros which would go towards the final costs of fighting the blaze. Investigators were trying to establish the exact point at which the fire started in order to corroborate the couple's claim that they were out walking in the countryside and when they became lost, used a mobile phone to call for help. They said that, to attract the attention of rescuers, they started a fire which spread rapidly.
Nerja market strike
By Dave Jamieson
Shoppers in Nerja were left thoroughly confused last week when the town's weekly produce market failed to materialise. No advance warning appears to have been given about the cancellation of the market which was caused by the refusal of traders to put up their stalls and sell their wares. The work stoppage came as traders' representatives lobbied the Town Council over its plans to move the weekly Tuesday market to a new site which is well out of the town centre. By 10.00, around 250 people had gathered quietly at the Town Hall while a meeting was held between their representatives, mayor José Alberto Armijo and the councillor responsible, José Miguel Jimena.
The planned move to the Almijara area of the town, close to the site of the recently re-sited Sunday car boot sale, was the Town Hall's response to continued complaints from residents in the town centre that the market blocked access to their properties and could prevent police and other services reaching an emergency incident. The site, which Councillors say will be operating by next Easter, is on empty ground in an urbanised district to the north-east of the town centre. The Town Hall has promised to lay on extra public transport, but traders have been sceptical about the plan from its inception.
'Mercadillo' tourist attraction
Earlier, the president of the Málaga association of street vendors, Juan Rojas, complained that Nerja Town Hall was not paying enough attention to the weekly market, and should take into account that it had become a tourist attraction. He also said that a 1988 law gave certain rights to his members, including controls on those trading illegally in order to avoid unfair competition. Another representative, David Muñoz, said that problems of residents' access at the market's present town centre was caused by 320 stalls being squeezed into space allocated for just 200, the extra 120 being operated illegally, without a licence from the Town Hall. The situation, he said, had caused bad feeling between traders and residents because of the resulting obstruction of roads and accesses. Sr Muñoz claimed the "chaos" of Nerja's weekly market came as a result of the Town Hall permitting too many stalls.
Last week's meeting, however, appears to have brought some form of compromise, with both sides saying they will collaborate to improve the market. The Town Hall says local police officers will better monitor the existing situation to eliminate illegal trading while the traders' representatives will provide their members with updated information on the market's move. A further meeting was scheduled for today.
Europe's biggest Al-Qaeda trial
Madrid court sentences head of cell for September 11 connexion
By David Eade
THE SPANISH HIGH COURT IN MADRID HAS SENTENCED THE SYRIAN HEAD OF AN AL-QAEDA CELL BASED IN SPAIN FOR HIS ROLE IN THE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES, IN THE BIGGEST TRIAL TO DATE IN EUROPE INVOLVING OSAMA BIN LADEN'S TERROR NETWORK.
The court also jailed 17 other people, including a reporter for the Al-Jazeera television station, for between six and 11 years.
The lengthy verdict covered 445 pages of text. In it Syrian Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah was given a 27-year jail term for conspiring to commit murder in the September 11 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people. Security service investigators regard him as the head of a Spanish-based Al-Qaeda cell that had been under investigation since 1995. Dahdah was jailed for 13 years for complicity in the US attacks and 12 for belonging to a terrorist organisation. The judges ruled that: "His participation was not proven regarding the execution of the attacks," but deemed that he was involved in "Al-Qaeda's macabre designs."
Dahdah and a Moroccan, Driss Chebli, had been accused by the prosecution of arranging a July 2001 meeting in Tarragona attended by Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the September 11 hijackers. Prosecutor Pedro Rubira alleged the meeting "probably determined the date of the attacks on the United States." For his part Chebli was given six years in jail after being found guilty of collaborating with Al-Qaeda.
Another Syrian Abrash Ghalyoun, who had stood accused of aiding and abetting the carnage of September 11 along with Dahdah and Chebli, was freed. So too were five others found not guilty on lesser charges alleging Al-Qaeda collaboration.
The sentences handed down by the Spanish High Court contrasted starkly with those demanded by the prosecution team. They had wanted Dahdah, Chebli and Ghalyoun to be handed "exemplary" sentences of a record 74,377 years being 25 years for each of the 2,973 September 11 victims and 12 more for membership of a terrorist organisation, yet under Spanish law they could only have served 30.
The most controversial sentence was the seven-year term given to TV reporter Tayssir Alluni, who, while working for pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera in Afghanistan in 2001, secured an interview with bin Laden. The interview was never broadcast by Al Jazeera but was shown in edited form on CNN. Alluni is Syrian-born but a naturalised Spaniard. Al-Jazeera director general Waddah Khanfar said the TV station would appeal against the "unfair" conviction following a "verdict (which) is very disappointing," and added: "We still believe our colleague Tayssir is innocent of the charges against him." Any appeal must be launched within ten days.
MADRID BOMBING TRIAL
Madrid will host another major terrorism trial next year when the 28 suspects, the majority of them Moroccan, alleged to have been behind the Madrid bombing of March 11 2004 stand trial. The Al Qaeda trial will have been viewed as a practice run for that complex trial by the prosecution team and will have alerted them to the difficulty of proving guilt against such terror organisations.
Osborne bull ruled 'national symbol'
NEWS Staff Reporter
When you're driving through the Spanish countryside and suddenly you see the enormous silhouette of a stately black bull looming atop the approaching hillside, what does it bring to mind?
That was largely the question at hand in a case ruled on last week by the Sevilla high court, in which five local souvenir shopkeepers were on trial for industrial copyright infringement because they sold unlicensed t-shirts and trinkets adorned with the 'Toro de Osborne' logo. The judge in the case found the defendants not guilty, ruling that the distinctive bull logo, while legally a trademark of sherry-maker Osborne, has "transcended its origins as a brand" and become a "national symbol."
The 'toro' logo was created nearly 50 years ago by the once British-owned Osborne as part of an advertising campaign for the company's Veterano sherry. Giant billboard cut-outs of the image were installed along roads throughout the country – though most heavily in sherry-soaked Andalucía, where the company is based – originally bearing the word 'Osborne' in white letters across the bull's body. In 1988, when a new law prohibited billboard advertising along public roads, officials 'pardoned' the Osborne bull following public outcry at the loss what had by then become an affectionately accepted part of the national landscape. The word 'Osborne' had to be removed, but the bull stayed standing.
The Sevilla judge cited the 1988 decision by the Spanish Parliament, saying it supported the notion that the bull has long since become part of the "cultural and artistic heritage of the Spanish people." The souvenir-vendors' t-shirts, ashtrays, key-chains, postcards and other items bearing the toro logo were clearly unrelated to Osborne's beverage or food products and were sold to people who "view in the figure of the bull a national symbol, not a company's brand," said the judge. For Spaniards, the toro silhouette "recalls the bullfight and highlights the beauty of this strong animal," he said in his ruling.
The prosecutor was seeking seven months in jail for the five shopkeepers accused of 'pirating' the bull logo. Osborne's legal team has stated that it will appeal the decision, using as supporting documentation a 2003 ruling by a Málaga court that handed out a six-month prison sentence in an identical case.
Andalucía fights the flu
By Dave Jamieson
Health authorities in Andalucía launch this winter's anti-flu campaign on Monday. The first supplies of the vaccine are now being distributed to 170 centres by the regional health service, with 190,000 doses expected to be administered during October and November. The campaign, organised every year by the Servicio Andaluz de Salud (SAS) is directed towards the over-65s and others considered to be at risk, including those already unwell for whom influenza could become life-threatening. Patients with chronic problems, such as bronchial asthma or diabetes, plus health workers and carers are also priorities.
The number of those over the age of 65 expected to be vaccinated in the region is estimated at 61 per cent, seven points below the national average according to the Ministry of Health. However, an awareness campaign is underway to raise that figure to 90 per cent within two years, and to ensure that 50 per cent of at-risk under-65s also receive the vaccine.
In previous campaigns, 70 per cent of those vaccinated avoided contracting flu, while the remaining 30 per cent suffered greatly reduced symptoms if they became infected. Patients are recommended to contact their local health centres to make an appointment to be vaccinated against the virus which usually begins to appear in December.
Alhaurín church demolished
NEWS Staff Reporter
Last week heavy equipment was brought in to begin demolition work on the María Auxiliadora parish church in Alhaurín el Grande's Villafranco del Guadalhorce district. The church, located in Plaza Mayor, is being torn down as the first phase of a project for the construction of a new church, funded jointly by the Town Hall and the Málaga diocese. The old one was declared a technical ruin two years ago, forcing local worshipers to attend mass in the district's Town Hall office instead.
The church is to be rebuilt on the same site, maintaining the old structure's style and basic design, and even reusing the original arched entryway. The main difference is that the new church will be slightly shorter than the old one.
The total cost of rebuilding the church is estimated at 300,000, to be split evenly between the Town Hall and the diocese. Once demolition and the clearing of the site are completed and actual building work starts, construction is expected to take about 18 months. "The beginning of the demolition marks the beginning of the future church," said District Mayor Micaela Naranjo Fernández last week. "Within two years we expect to begin celebrating the Eucharist within its walls."
Illegal water well shut down
NEWS Staff Reporter
Authorities in Benalmádena last week shut down the work of a private company that was illegally digging a water well. The Córdoba-based firm had no licences to dig the 100-metre-deep well, which was to be used for watering the gardens of Los Nadales, a residential development currently under construction, according to Town Hall officials. The well was being dug 500 metres from the location of the Pozo del Paso, one of most important of a group of municipal wells that together provide some 70 per cent of the town's water supply, according to municipal water company Emabesa.
It was Emabesa workers who first detected the presence of the illegal well-digging project. They reported it to the Town Hall, which sent local police officers out to investigate. Once it was established that the well was being dug without the necessary licences and authorisation, the Town Hall sealed the site and reported the case to the regional water authority, Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza, for possible fines or legal action.
Meanwhile, during the last six months Emabesa itself has been prospecting for water, seeking new sources to protect the town's supply during the drought. It has dug at two sites in the Hacienda Veracruz and Rancho Domingo areas, but has so far not hit water.
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