News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week October 6th to October 12th 2005.
PRICE HIKE AT THE PUMP
Spanish petrol stations register third largest price increase in the EU
By Oliver McIntyre
SPAIN IS AMONG THE EU COUNTRIES WHERE PETROL PRICES AT THE PUMP HAVE BEEN SLOWEST TO DROP FOLLOWING THE SUMMER PRICE SURGE, ACCORDING TO FIGURES FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION OIL BULLETIN.
The data suggest that the stubbornness of the prices in Spain could be due to petroleum companies padding their margins by keeping pump prices high after wholesale prices drop from their peak.
In mid-September, the average price for 95-octane unleaded at Spanish petrol stations was 27.5 per cent higher than at the beginning of January, the third largest increase of any of the EU-15. Only Greece (32.17 per cent) and Portugal (27.97 per cent) were higher. Diesel fuel at Spanish pumps was up 20.5 per cent, the fourth highest percentage increase of the EU-15, behind Greece (27.17 per cent), Luxembourg (24.17 per cent) and Holland (20.88 per cent).
Because Spanish petrol taxes have not increased in the first nine months of the year, and the wholesale prices paid by the country’s oil companies has not increased at as high a rate as pump prices, it would appear that the companies are benefiting. Indeed, some consumer groups have complained that increases in international crude prices are very quick to be reflected in pump prices, but when the wholesale prices go down, the reduction is much slower to reach the consumer.
INDUSTRY MINISTER STEPS IN
Industry Minister José Montilla recently implored the country’s petrol production and distribution companies to reverse this trend, and to sacrifice some of their margin in the interest of helping to palliate the inflationary effects of increased worldwide crude prices. Cepsa responded by dropping prices by one cent a litre, and Repsol YPF has announced that it will drop prices by between one and one and a half cents.
SPAIN’S ‘CHEAP’ FILL-UP
Despite petrol prices increasing by larger percentages in Spain than in most other EU countries, filling up at the country’s stations is still cheaper than in many places in Europe. The average price for 95-octane unleaded in Spain on September 19 was 1.07 euros/litre, putting it at 17th place among the EU-25 countries. The highest prices were in Holland (1.47 euros/litre), the UK (1.40 euros/litre) and Germany (1.34 euros/litre), while the cheapest place for a fill-up was Malta, at just 0.88 euros/litre.
'They knocked a hole in our building'
Apartment block residents indignant over ‘illegal’ ground floor works
By Oliver McIntyre
RESIDENTS OF BENALMÁDENA’S MAR DEL SUR APARTMENT COMPLEX LAST THURSDAY CALLED THE POLICE ON THE OWNER OF A COMMERCIAL UNIT ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF THE BUILDING WHO THEY SAY ILLEGALLY BROKE A GARAGE-DOOR-SIZE HOLE IN THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING.
“The workers showed up to drive through the concrete wall but were unsuccessful using hand tools,” said Briton William Mathewson, who owns an apartment in the building. “So they called in a JCB and pile-driver at 8.30 Thursday night and drove a 12-metre by 10-metre hole in the one-foot-thick reinforced concrete wall.”
Concerned neighbours and homeowners’ association officials called the local police, who showed up but did not stop the work from being completed as they discussed the situation with the owner of the commercial unit and the angry homeowners who had gathered around, Mr Mathewson told CDSN.
Another foreign resident of Mar del Sur, Kay Leslie, told CDSN that the owner of the commercial unit “has a Town Hall permit for interior works but not exterior.” In addition, the man was “told by the [homeowners’ association] that he could not make a garage-size external door,” she said.
The commercial unit in question is adjacent to a new motorcycle workshop, called Pitstop, that is being created at the bottom of the building, and the unit is apparently to be used for storage. Homeowners are concerned about noise from the motorcycles, as well as the possible danger posed by petrol, diesel and oil.
BUSINESS OWNER ‘NOT WORRIED’
On Friday the owner of the commercial unit refused to identify himself by name but told CDSN, “I spoke to the mayor, Enrique Bolín, this morning and he told me not to worry.” He continued, “I have all the paperwork in order.”
CDSN contacted the Town Hall, which was unable to confirm what type of construction permit, if any, the man had. Nor could it confirm if the mayor had had a conversation with him that morning.
Meanwhile, the residents were still awaiting action from authorities. “The courts say it’s a matter for the police, and the police say they can’t act until the Town Hall gives them the go-ahead,” said Mr Mathewson.
Nerja firms up Axarquía plans
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja Town Council has approved the measures it wants to see included in plans for the future of the Axarquía. The draft version of the Plan de Ordenación del Territorio de la Axarquía (known as the POT) has been the subject of heated debates throughout the summer, but last week councillors finally agreed Nerja’s input by a vote of 15 to 2.
The town is suggesting that the plan be renamed to include the eastern Costa del Sol as well as the Axarquía and roundly rejects the proposal that the Junta de Andalucía should take over the task of defining the siting, size and use of certain municipal areas including industrial estates, leisure zones and important tourist spots. With regard to Nerja’s proposed marina, the Town Hall says the POT should include the objectives already laid out in the municipality’s local development plan, which would place the development on the coastline on Nerja’s western and Torrox’ eastern borders.
Also included is support for the proposals for an east coast railway line between Málaga and Nerja, with the recommendation that any future station should be an interchange between all forms of public transport. Nerja has also resurrected an old idea for a new road to Granada, which would give easier access from the eastern coast to Arenas del Ray, Jayena and Alhama de Granada.
Residents win halt-work order on building
Apart-hotel was being built on land meant for public use
By Oliver McIntyre
A GROUP OF HOMEOWNERS IN BENALMÁDENA HAS WON A VICTORY OVER A DEVELOPMENT COMPANY THAT WAS BUILDING AN APARTMENT BLOCK ON LAND THE GROUP SAYS IS CLASSIFIED FOR PUBLIC USE.
The Torremolinos court hearing the case, filed by the Torremuelle homeowners’ association, has issued an immediate halt-work order on the building, located next to the Torremuelle Cercanías train station.
The homeowners’ association describes the building, which the developer says is an apart-hotel, as “a block of 60 apartments disguised as a hotel.” In either case, the homeowners say the Town Hall should never have issued a licence for the construction, as the land was originally classified for public use, not residential or hotel. “In the sentence it says that, although the project had a municipal licence, the residents hold a previous right that construction in their urbanisation conform to the rules that were established when it was planned and sold, more than 20 years ago,” said the group in a written statement.
The homeowners say they will offer the developer a different property in the urbanisation where such a building is allowable, in exchange for the current building site.
TOWN HALL ACCUSED
Meanwhile, there is still a pending criminal case against Benalmádena Town Hall in relation to the project, opened last month by the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office following a complaint from the homeowners’ association. Based on the prosecutor’s investigation and recommendations, a judge will decide whether a judicial investigation will be opened and formal charges filed.
King faces trial for separate rape case
NEWS Staff Reporter
A Torremolinos judge earlier this week informed Tony Alexander King that he is to face trial by the provincial court on an attempted rape charge separate from the two murders the Briton is already charged with. The alleged sexual assault was reported in 2003 by Torremolinos resident Carmen N., who said she was attacked in June of 2001 and later, when King was arrested for the murder of Sonia Carabantes in Coín, she recognised him on TV as her attacker. She subsequently picked King out of a police line-up.
According to the woman’s charge, she was walking back to her car from a late-night bonfire at the beach on June 24, 2001, when she heard footsteps behind her. When she opened the back door of her car, she was hit from behind and thrown into the vehicle, where the attacker attempted to rape her. She fought, kicked and screamed until the man fled, jumping into a convertible car with a second person who was awaiting him, according to the victim’s account.
King is scheduled to go on trial beginning October 17 for the 2003 murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín. A date has yet to be set for his trial for the 1999 murder of 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof in Mijas.
Prosecutor receives testimony on Marbella council
By David Eade
The scandal surrounding the two sacked Partido Andauclista councillors at Marbella Town Hall has now reached the courts. This week Cristóbal Toro, a Marbella local police officer and spokesperson for the ‘Manos Limpias’ group of town hall employees, gave sworn testimony to the Málaga prosecutor.
It is understood that Toro’s statement contained much more information on the alleged illegal activities of former deputy mayor, Carlos Fernández, and his fellow PA councillor, Pedro Pérez, than was contained in the letter previously sent to the prosecutor’s office by Mayor Marisol Yagüe.
As a result of the information provided to the prosecutor to date, the judicial authorities are opening a case against both councillors alleging the fraudulent use of public funds, falsifying documents and invoices, plus coercion against municipal employees.
It is believed that the Sr Toro’s testimony was a decisive factor in the prosecutor taking the case to court. Sr Toro, who was the press officer for Marbella’s police during the Jesús Gil era and now has a local television station, put together a DVD which featured a number of municipal employees claiming that the PA councillors had demanded money from them to keep their jobs and also insisted they join the Partido Andalucista.
Amongst the other allegations made is that a brother of the then deputy mayor, Carlos Fernández, was given a double work contract for two months and thus received a double salary. In addition, it is claimed that other people related to the PA councillors were given contracts but were not required to work for their salaries.
Videos shot under girls’ skirts at local malls
NEWS Staff Reporter
Police have opened an investigation into the clandestine filming of videos under unwitting girls’ and women’s skirts while they are shopping at stores in commercial centres in Málaga and the Costa del Sol. The existence of the videos on some peer-to-peer Internet networks was revealed last week by La Opinión de Málaga, a Spanish-language newspaper. They are apparently shot by a person or persons using a digital video camera, probably hidden in a shopping bag. When the perpetrator spots his mark – usually a young woman or teenage girl wearing a short skirt – he positions himself near where she is browsing a clothes rack, for example, and holds the bag down underneath her in order to film up her skirt.
Thirty-five or more such videos filmed in stores in Málaga and the province have been identified. Though many of the clips are posted by a person identifying himself as ‘Pakete’, police cannot easily track down the culprit because the videos are not posted on a particular Web site per se, but rather exist in the hard-drives of many computer users who form part of the enormous P2P networks, which have millions of members worldwide.
Meanwhile, the malls themselves have reacted, saying they are training their security staff to keep a specific lookout for hidden-video shooters. But they also admit that it is a difficult task, as the profile of the suspect – a man carrying a shopping bag – encompasses a huge cross-section of a mall’s clientele.
Open verdict on death of Gibraltar's Commander
By David Eade
THE INQUEST WAS RECENTLY HELD IN GIBRALTAR IN TO THE DEATH OF COMMODORE DAVID WHITE, WHO AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH ON JANUARY 8 HAD JUST BEEN RELIEVED OF HIS POST AS COMMANDER BRITISH FORCES ON THE ROCK.
The Coroner, Charles Pitto, recorded an open verdict. The Coroner stated: “The evidence did not disclose or further disclose the means whereby the said cause of death arose” thus Mr Pitto ruled out other possible outcomes including accidental death or suicide.
It emerged at the inquest that the 50-year-old, unmarried Commodore White had received a telephone call less than 24 hours before he died to the effect that he was being stripped of his command and advising him to return to the UK immediately. He was under investigation by the Ministry of Defence’s own police force as it had been alleged that he had used his credit card to purchase pornographic images from a website in the USA.
The Ministry of Defence never revealed the type of images that the Commodore allegedly downloaded but the UK press speculated that he was being investigated by the Operation Ore team who were carrying out Britain’s largest enquiry in to child pornography.
At the time of his death Commodore White had not been arrested or charged but none the less his commanders took the decision to move him away from Gibraltar, as the news of the investigation into his affairs had become public knowledge.
‘STATE OF DESPAIR’
Commodore White was found dead fully clothed at the bottom of his swimming pool less than 24 hours later and the police found no evidence of foul play. The post mortem established that he had mixed alcohol with strong sedatives and that this may have impaired his coordination and judgment.
His brother, Rupert White, attended the inquest and told the coroner that the decision to strip him of his command would have left him in a state of despair. A number of witnesses at the inquest described the Commodore, a former submariner, as a perfect gentleman, an officer with a long and distinguished career. He was a person who remained calm in a crisis and would take advice from his fellow senior officers when tackling a problem.
Ardales priest's 54-year-old corpse exhumed intact
By Oliver McIntyre
THE CORPSE OF A PRIEST WHO WAS BORN IN ARDALES IN 1901 AND DIED IN THE ARGENTINE PROVINCE OF CÓRDOBA IN 1951 WAS FOUND TO BE NEARLY PERFECTLY PRESERVED WHEN IT WAS EXHUMED EARLIER THIS MONTH FROM A MAUSOLEUM IN SANTA ROSA DE CALAMUCHITA, ACCORDING TO FAMILY MEMBERS AND OTHER WITNESSES.
The body of Salesian priest Francisco Baeza was disinterred at the request of his nephew, who was fulfilling an old promise to move the remains to the family mausoleum alongside those of the priest’s brother.
“We showed up with an urn” to collect the remains, the nephew, Juan Carlos Baeza, told Radio Santa Rosa, “and when we opened the tomb, we found a perfectly intact body.”
The parish priest of the town, Pablo Liendo, confirmed that the corpse was in a remarkably well-preserved state. In comments aired on Radio Santa Rosa he said, “It looked like it had been recently interred.” The body was dry and largely intact, he said, “as if it had been mummified.”
The undertaker who had been hired to disinter and transfer the remains was as shocked as the other witnesses at the condition of the corpse. “We’ve been doing this [type of work] for many years,” he said. “There’s no explanation – none.”
Radio Santa Rosa says most of the eyewitness accounts it collected have been sent to the Catholic Church for its experts to assess whether this could be a case of an ‘incorruptible body’. The phenomenon, in which a deceased person’s remains defy nature by resisting decomposition for an extended period of time, has a long tradition in the Church. It is generally associated with saints.
Torrox Costa’s “archaic” postal service
News Staff Reporter
A new post office for Torrox Costa has been demanded by a local councillor. María Estrella Tomé, who represents the town and adjoining El Morche, says that the present provision by Correos is “archaic” for a community of 15,000 houses, which are home to a large number of foreign residents and therefore have high levels of incoming and outgoing post.
She has written to the post office authorities insisting they improve their services in the municipality where there is presently only one office, and that is some distance away in Torrox Pueblo.
Sra Tomé said that the existing service offered by Correos is “highly deficient” and has indicated that the Town Hall may offer a suitable site in Torrox Costa for a new office.
Mijas students protest
Pupils and parents decry school overcrowding
By Oliver McIntyre
AROUND A HUNDRED STUDENTS AND PARENTS FROM THE LAS LAGUNAS SECONDARY SCHOOL RODE THE TRAIN TO MÁLAGA AND MARCHED TO THE PROVINCIAL EDUCATION DELEGATION, WHERE THEY PROTESTED WITH SIGNS AND BANNERS DECRYING THE OVERCROWDING AT THE SCHOOL. They stood outside the government building, known as the ‘Edificio Negro’ (Black Building), for about two hours, until a group of representatives were received by the head of the Education Inspection Department, Norberto Ruiz.
The complaints heard by Sr Ruiz included severe overcrowding – 1,300 students in a school meant for 600 – and individual class sizes of up to 46 students. In some cases, there are entire classes of students who do not have a fixed classroom, but have to go from one to another depending on the subject being taught, said the protesters. In addition, some elective subjects have been dropped altogether because there is not sufficient teaching staff, they said.
The Education Department has indicated that staffing has already been increased at the school and that the rotating of students from classroom to classroom can be resolved by the school itself through a reorganisation of schedules.
One student involved in the protest has connections in high places, though it is unclear if that will help the group’s cause. At last week’s Mijas Town Council meeting, the opposition Partido Popular voiced its support for the protesting students and called on Mayor Agustín Moreno to act on their behalf. The mayor announced that, not only had he already filed the complaints with the Education Delegation, but his own son was one of the protesters.
Britons flock to Olvera
NEWS Staff Reporter
In recent years there has been a steady influx of British residents to the village of Olvera in the Sierra de Cádiz. They say they have been attracted to the area by the low cost of housing, the hospitality of the people and the beauty of the local countryside.
One of the first Britons to be drawn to Olvera was the anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers who lived there from between 1949 and 1952. Today there are around 50 British families living in the municipality and some of them have set up estate agencies and opened bars. It is estimated that around 160 properties in Olvera are currently being offered to the British market and that the main method of selling is word of mouth and the internet.
The majority of the British residents say they moved inland to Olvera because the cost of housing is far lower than on the Spanish coast and they find the lifestyle more agreeable. However there is no British ghetto in the village and the incomers have been careful to integrate with the life of the pueblo.
The Sierra de Cádiz is also becoming more popular with tourists seeking a rural holiday. The zone hopes to attract golfers in the future with a course already underway in Arcos with others planned for Espera and Prado del Rey. The Prado del Rey course will also have an urbanisation of 840 dwellings and a luxury 60-bed hotel.
Sub-Saharans storm border fences
By David Eade
ACCORDING TO SPANISH SOURCES AROUND 700 PEOPLE FROM THE SUB-SAHARA STORMED THE RAZOR-WIRE SECURITY FENCE THAT SEPARATES THE SPANISH ENCLAVE OF MELILLA FROM NEIGHBOURING MOROCCO ON MONDAY. It is believed that around 200 managed to make it into Melilla as the fence collapse whilst the rest were repelled with around 194 being arrested by Moroccan security forces.
After last week’s mass attempts to break the fences of both Ceuta and Melilla the Spanish and Moroccan governments deployed hundreds of extra police and army personnel to keep the would-be immigrants out.
A Guardia Civil spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the hoard of 700 people attempted to cross the fence at a point where is about 20 metres high despite the fact that the army is patrolling there. Migrants and Spanish officials were hurt in the latest assault and the fence was littered with makeshift ladders, shoes and items of clothing.
Police in Melilla have recorded over 12,000 attempts to illegally enter the enclave this year. The sub-Saharans see the Spanish enclaves as their stepping stones in to Europe and scaling the fences is far preferable to trying to cross the Straits of Gibraltar in flimsy boats. The reality is that those who are caught in Ceuta and Melilla are held in detention and then deported to their countries of origin. The brunt of the attempts to cross the security has taken place in Mellia. However last week five people died after a mass assault on the fences of Ceuta. Spain’s deputy prime minister, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega stated that three died on the Moroccan side of the border and two on the Spanish side. Officials in Ceuta stated that the migrants were crushed to death in the stampede to cross the fence and have denied reports that the police opened fire.
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