News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week October 13th to October 19th 2005.
JUVENILE CRIME CURBED
Restraining orders for school bullies
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
SPAIN'S COUNCIL OF MINISTERS HAS APPROVED THE DRAFT VERSION OF A REFORMED JUVENILE CRIME LAW ('LEY DE RESPONSABILIDAD PENAL DEL MENOR'), WHICH WILL STIFFEN SENTENCING FOR NON-VIOLENT CRIMES COMMITTED BY MINORS AND CALL FOR RESTRAINING ORDERS IN CASES OF SCHOOL BULLYING.
Justice Minister Juan Fernando López Aguilar, announced that the reforms to the law contain "four essential points." One is to increase the protection of victims, which is the idea behind issuing restraining orders against those found guilty of school bullying. Such abuse among schoolchildren, whether physical or psychological, has become an increasingly prevalent and controversial problem in Spain, where experts say it is now more common than domestic abuse.
According to the recent 9th International Conference on the Biology and Sociology of Violence, held in Valencia, domestic violence occurs among two per cent of couples while school violence affects three per cent of students. If psychological abuse is included, one in four students suffer 'bullying' at school, according to a Complutense University study.
The other three principal points of the reformed law include improved response to juvenile gangs, stronger sentencing for serious juvenile infractions and technical improvements to make the juvenile judicial process more efficient.
IMPRISONMENT FOR NON-VIOLENT CRIMES
In the case of serious offences, the reform allows for imprisonment in juvenile detention centres for non-violent crimes such as drug dealing or illegal possession of arms. The existing law allows the imprisonment of minors only for violent offences.
With the aim of protecting minors sent to juvenile detention centres from being preyed upon by other inmates, the law will allow judges to order the transfer to normal penitentiaries of potentially dangerous prisoners who turn 18 while serving their sentence in juvenile facilities. Minister López Águilar said that this measure would be exercised only in 'exceptional' circumstances.
British couple robbed in Alhaurín
Thieves took the car keys and drove off in the couple's Toyota
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
A BRITISH COUPLE LIVING IN ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE WERE ROBBED AT THEIR HOME IN THE EARLY HOURS OF FRIDAY MORNING.
The thief or thieves climbed over a wall to gain entry into the six-house complex and then broke into the couple's home through the back door, said the husband, John Gotts, an Englishman who moved to Alhaurín with his wife about four years ago.
The burglars took only the wife's purse, containing 600 euros, and her car keys, said Mr Gotts, despite the fact that there were other items of value such as cameras in plain view. "It's like they knew exactly what they were going for," he told Costa del Sol News. The thieves drove off in the couple's car, a red Toyota Corolla with Spanish number plates (7771DGC), which at press time had not been found by police.
Shortly after the robbery the bankcard from Mrs Gotts' purse was used to withdraw 710 euros. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to use other cards from the purse, including a Barclay's card, according to Mr Gotts, who said the police told him they have "quite good leads," as all the attempts were made in Estación de Cártama, where surveillance cameras may have captured images of the robbers.
Worse than the material losses, however, was the fact that the burglars poisoned and killed the couple's young dog, said Mr Gotts. "We're insured, we'll get it all back," he said. "But the puppy? What kind of sick people do that?"
This was not the first time the Gotts have been robbed since leaving England for a life in Spain. In December of 2001, as they were driving down, they were stopped on the road by fake police who turned out to be thieves and robbed the couple of 5,500 euros.
Britons arrested for major drugs crimes
By David Eade
Two Britons wanted by the UK authorities for drug trafficking on a major scale have been arrested by the National Police in Marbella after a joint operation between the police forces of both countries.
The images of the two men had been recently shown on a mass audience British TV crime watch show. It is believed they were both tipped off by fellow gang members in the UK that the police were moving in on them and that Spain was not a safe place to stay because of the extradition agreement between the two countries.
However before they could move on police arrested 26 year-old Briton, Daniel Roy R, as well as his fellow drug dealer, Nol S, who was born 29 years ago in Yugoslavia. Police also seized 50 kilos of heroin that they had in their possession.
Also in the operation police confiscated three passports belonging to one of the men, one with his true identity and the other two false. In addition they found eight mobile phones and a British-registered Mitsubishi vehicle. In all the police raided three dwellings and in the home of the Yugoslav born man they also found another fake identity document.
Both men were subjects of international search, detain and deportation warrants issued by the British authorities. The warrants allege the men are wanted for drug trafficking and being important members of an international organisation dedicated to importation of large quantities of heroin and cocaine.
Mayor distributes ex-colleagues jobs
By David Eade
Town Hall adjusts after ouster of Partido Andalucista councillors
MARISOL YAGÜE, THE MAYOR OF MARBELLA, HAS ACTED TO REDISTRIBUTE THE JOBS FORMERLY HELD BY THE TWO SACKED PARTIDO ANDALUCISTA COUNCILLORS WHO USED TO FORM PART OF THE NOW SHATTERED TRI-PARTY ADMINISTRATION.
Rather than hand over department-head positions to councillors outside of the now two-party administration, the mayor has instead shared them amongst six key members of the governing team.
Sra Yagüe adds to her own existing responsibilities the portfolios for the Fire Department and Civil Defence. Her deputy mayor, socialist Isabel García Marcos, takes over responsibility for the Puerto Banús zone of the municipality. Additional posts go to Tomás Reñones, who now becomes the second deputy mayor and adds Fiestas to his Youth and Sports councillorships. Rafael Calleja takes on the Tourism and Foreign Residents Departments; Vincente Manciles adds Water, Electricity and Parks and Gardens whilst Miguel Jiménez takes on Beaches, Fishing and Environment.
Meanwhile, both present and former Marbella mayors and councillors have recently been appearing in court. The cases relate to alleged town planning offences, one of them involving the granting of a licence for the construction of 221 homes plus garages on land near the Don Miguel Hotel.
This development was approved by former GIL mayor Julián Muñoz in July 2003. However, under the 1986 local development plan (PGOU), the only one recognised by the regional government, a building limit of just 15 properties is approved for the site.
Another case was brought by Ecologistas en Acción and centred on a planning permission granted by the former three-party coalition that until recently ruled Marbella Town Hall. The environmentalist's lawyer claims that technical reports, which are used by the mayor and her team to approve building licences, are illegal because they are not drawn up by specialists from the Town Hall's legal department.
City security cams cause political rift
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga has been given the go-ahead to install video surveillance cameras in city centre streets, but the issue has re-opened a political breach at the Town Hall.
Last week, an Andalucía upper court gave its approval to the operating procedures submitted by Málaga, clearing the way for the appearance of 17 cameras with 360-degree vision operating 24 hours a day at nine locations in the centre. The points chosen cover between 200 and 300 commercial premises and the pictures will give National Police operators a view of about 15,000 square metres which, according to Security councillor Antonio Cordero, is where half the crimes in the city are committed. Mayor Francisco de la Torre says the network will be operating by the start of next year.
However, while the Partido Popular (PP), the ruling group at the Town Hall, was supported by PSOE councillors, the opposition Izquierda Unida (IU) said the cameras would make the streets a '1984' or a 'Big Brother' scenario, referring to both George Orwell's novel and the reality television series. They say that the planned surveillance will "affect the fundamental rights" of individuals and would only serve to move crime to other sectors of the city. An IU spokesman, José Luis Portillo, added that doubt remained about the use to which pictures from the cameras would be put.
However, the Government subdelegate in Málaga, Hilario López Luna, said the system was "positive news" for the city and would permit increased security. Meanwhile, the Junta de Andalucía complained that it had not been consulted on the installation of the cameras, which observers claimed as evidence of another breakdown in communications between Málaga and Sevilla.
Mijas apartments seized in money-laundering bust
By Oliver McIntyre
Police have seized real estate developments in Mijas containing a total of 132 apartments, as part of a money-laundering bust of a group believed to have invested up to 40 million euros of drug money in construction. The apartments, some of them luxury properties according to the police, are located in the Jacaranda Garden, Lidia Garden and Hollywood Hills urbanisations.
So far, four people have been arrested, including the daughter of the suspected kingpin of the Portuguese drug-trafficking gang whose money was allegedly being laundered, and a Marbella lawyer accused of handling the development company's operations. Searches were conducted at several Mijas homes, the development company's offices and the lawyer's office. Police seized the company's bank and investment accounts, the current value of which was undisclosed but, days before the police operation, was around two million dollars, according to officials. Also seized were two Mercedes and 12,000 euros in cash.
The investigation, code-named 'Operación Turrón' and carried out by the Spanish National Police with the support of the Portuguese police, remains open and further arrests are likely, say officials. The judge in charge of the case is expected to request the extradition of a suspected member of the group who is currently in a Río de Janeiro prison. A European arrest warrant is to be filed for another alleged member of the group.
Shepherds say wild dogs killing livestock
NEWS Staff Reporter
Sheep and goat herdsmen in Tolox have raised complaints about packs of wild dogs killing their livestock while the animals graze in the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. According to the herders, they have lost more than a hundred head of livestock in the last seven months, and that represents just the herds from Tolox, not other neighbouring towns. The herdsmen are so concerned that they have requested permission from the Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department to carry shotguns when they take their herds out into the countryside, to protect not just their sheep and goats, but also themselves.
The wild dogs, either abandoned or wild-born, also pose a threat to protected species in the park such as mountain goats, say the herdsmen and Tolox Town Hall officials. According to Mayor Juan Vera, complaints have been filed with the Town Hall, the Guardia Civil and the courts. He says there has been no response from the higher authorities, "while in Tolox we keep losing livestock." The local dog pound cannot take on the task of catching up the wild dogs because they roam in a protected rural zone that is outside its jurisdiction.
The Junta's Environment Department says agents have been sent to evaluate the livestock losses and confirm the source of the attacks, after which the department may authorise the hunting down of the wild dogs.
Málaga leads Europe in hashish imports
BY DAVE JAMIESON
MÁLAGA HAS BECOME THE MAJOR POINT OF ENTRY OF HASHISH TO SPAIN AND THE REST OF THE E.U. THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR SAYS THAT 63.7 PER CENT OVER 128,000 KILOS OF THE DRUG SEIZED NATIONWIDE LAST YEAR WAS CONFISCATED IN THE PROVINCE, WHILE SECURITY FORCES ARRESTED OVER 1,500 PEOPLE.
The report published last week says that Málaga's unenviable position comes primarily as a result of its close geographical location to north Africa and its many remote beaches where boats can be landed unnoticed. As a result, criminal gangs have developed bases along the Costa del Sol where drugs can be hidden for later distribution throughout Spain and the rest of Europe. In addition, it says, a surveillance network implemented on the Cádiz coasts has forced the gangs to find other routes and increased traffic to Málaga despite the fact that SIVE (Servicio de Integral de Vigilancia del Estrecho) has implemented a similar operation here.
MORE DRUGS, LESS ARRESTS
While the amount of drugs imported is increasing, the number of arrests which end in court cases has dropped. The report says this comes as a result of the illegal trafficking now being in the hands of fewer, larger gangs, a view which is supported by the larger quantities of drugs seized in individual operations. The number of cases involving seizures of hashish and marijuana dropped 35 per cent - from 1,457 in 2003 to 942 last year – while the number of cases involving more dangerous drugs such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy fell 23 per cent to 557.
'OUTRUNNING THEIR PURSUERS'
Traffickers are also reported to be using the latest technology to assist them, including satellite positioning equipment which allows accurate navigation at night. The authorities also say the proliferation and easy availability of mobile telephones makes life easier for the criminal gangs, because by the time a court order has been obtained giving permission to "tap" a suspect mobile phone, the instrument will be at the bottom of the sea. In addition, the craft used for the illegal Mediterranean crossings can often have a higher performance than those used by the security forces allowing them to outrun their pursuers.
Chaos at Marbella Language School
Three week delay in Spanish classes for foreigners
By David Eade
THE START OF THE NEW TERM FOR LANGUAGE CLASSES AT THE ESCUELA OFICIAL DE IDIOMAS (EOI) IN MARBELLA HAS DESCENDED INTO CHAOS.
A record number of pupils have applied for the courses but there is insufficient number of teachers to take them leading to a three-week delay.
It is understood that when the pupils enrolled they were informed that there may be a delay in the start of the classes due to the lack of teachers. However the delay was put at around a week and not the three weeks pupils have waited to date. This had provoked strong criticism from the would-be students especially the more than 60 foreigners waiting to learn Spanish.
Currently seven groups at EOI are without teachers, which is affecting over 200 pupils. There are four classes for English, one for German and two for Spanish for foreigners that were all meant to start on September 22 but whose pupils are still waiting.
The director of the school, Fernando García, told the media that an English teacher was due to start last Friday and it was hoped to have a teacher for both the German and Spanish classes this week.
This is not a new problem and Sr.García admitted it had also happened in recent years that a lack of teachers had led to the postponement of classes for several weeks. He said he had written to the provincial education delegate, José Nieto, explaining the situation and seeking a solution to the now annual farce. For its part the delegation has admitted that it has had difficulty in employing teachers with the right profile.
Axarquía water for Western Málaga province
By Dave Jamieson
The Axarquía is to supply the western Costa del Sol with up to 15 hectometres of water per year from the Lake Viñuela reservoir. The figure is based on the volume of water taken from the lake in an average year. Viñuela is reported to have enough water at present to guarantee supplies for three years without any form of restriction, but the water going west is to be supplied on the understanding that it will be used for no other purpose than human consumption.
The agreement came at a meeting of the Mancomunidad de la Axarquía, the group which represents many municipalities in the area, but it was also critical of the western coast's expansion without taking the limitations of natural resources into account. The meeting called for a new water culture to be developed.
However, there will not be a second pipeline to carry water from Lake Viñuela to the city of Málaga. The director general of the water authority, Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza, has confirmed that "the solution for a water supply to the capital does not lie in the provision of new infrastucture". The words of Antonio Rodríguez Leal will have come as some relief to farmers and ecologists in the Axarquía.
Mijas to create modern 'Technopolis'
Complex to include studios and management headquarters
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
MIJAS TOWN HALL HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR THE CREATION OF WHAT IT IS BILLING AS A MODERN 'TECHNOPOLIS', A LARGE RESIDENTIAL AND BUSINESS COMPLEX GEARED SPECIFICALLY TOWARD PROFESSIONALS IN CREATIVE OR INTELLECTUAL FIELDS.
In other words, people involved not in physically manufacturing products, but rather designing them or managing the companies behind them. "The technopolis could house architecture studios, design studios of all types (car, computer, aeronautic, fashion, audiovisual…), and management headquarters for companies," says the Town Hall.
The idea is to create an attractive living and working environment outfitted with state-of-the-art communications infrastructure, a setting that, due to the portability of creative and intellectual work, will draw highly qualified professionals and companies from all over Europe, say municipal officials.
SITE NEXT TO THE MOTORWAY
The site, a four million-square-metre tract of land next to the motorway, stretching from just north of Las Lagunas almost all the way to La Cala, will have low-density housing, solar energy, recycled water for irrigation and a pneumatic rubbish collection system. The infrastructure alone will cost an estimated 100 million euros, says the Town Hall, and that doesn't include the construction of the housing and business facilities, recreational zones, shops and other amenities. The Town Hall expects to receive economic support from the project from both the Junta de Andalucía and the private sector.
Plans call for roughly half of the technopolis to consist of a combination of low-density housing (7.5 homes per hectare), gardens, recreational and sports zones, and shops. The other half will house infrastructure and work or business facilities. The Town Hall says the land earmarked for the project is already classified for these uses in the new local development plan (PGOU).
Protests in Tarifa and Chiclana
News Staff Reporter
The people of Tarifa, Barbate and Chiclana on the Costa de la Luz have been making their voices heard over proposed wind park and hotel developments.
In the case of the wind parks the Andalucía Ombudsman, José Chamizo, has been studying complaints from the Platform for the Defence of the Environment and Sustainable Development about the proposed construction of new wind parks in the Tarifa area. The group consists of concerned residents from Almarchal and La Zarzuela, in Tarifa, and from Zahara de los Atunes in Barbate.
They are alarmed at the number of wind parks being built, which they say affect the development, quality of life and countryside of the area. The group approached the Ombudsman because it claims the local authorities have failed to respond to its repeated requests for information something, which it says, could be a breach of citizens' rights.
6,000 oppose hotel plan
Meanwhile in Chiclana the group, which is opposing plans to build a hotel in the Plaza Mayor, has responded to remarks made by the town planning councillor, who allegedly told a local newspaper that only four people were involved in the protests.
The group's president, José Luís Montiel, says that although four people appear in the photographs, they have the backing of 6,000 others who are also against the hotel project. He is calling for the town hall to hold a referendum to gauge public opinion about the best action for the plaza. The group is not opposed to a hotel being built in Chiclana, but believes it should be located elsewhere in the town.
Spain and UK giants in merger
BY DAVE JAMIESON
SPAIN'S LARGEST PRIVATE COACH AND BUS OPERATOR HAS BEEN SOLD TO UK-BASED NATIONAL EXPRESS.
The £262 million (381 million euro) takeover is subject to approval by the Servicio de Defensa de la Competencia (the Spanish competition authority), and is expected to be completed within about six weeks.
Madrid-based Alsa has been privately owned by the Cosmen family for over 250 years. From Málaga, it operates routes to a range of destinations from Albacete to Zamora and also runs services in Portugal, Switzerland and Morocco. The company has a fleet of about 1,400 vehicles in this country and reported a turnover of 376 million euros last year, making it the third largest coach operator in Europe. The deal does not include Alsa's transport operations in China and South America which will remain under the control of the Cosmens. Alsa's President, 37- year- old Jorge Cosmen, who will join the National Express Group Board as a non- executive director, described the deal as "an historic moment" for his family. The tie-up will provide a windfall for the Cosmens who will receive £149 million (216.9 million euros) in cash, plus 9.9 per cent of National Express's shares.
National Express, which claims to carry over a billion passengers around the world on its bus and rail services every day, reported pre-tax profits of £63.1 million (about 92 million euros) last year. It runs almost a third of Britain's trains with interests in ten rail firms. As well as its well-known intercity coach service, it runs several local bus services in the West Midlands where it is based, and in London, as well as operating a U.S. subsidiary, National Express Corporation which employs 22,000 staff in 31 states.
The deal is National Express's first venture into Europe and observers regard it as the first consolidation of the European coach market. The chief executive of National Express, Phil White, said the firm was making a "significant step forward" by expanding into Spain. With its Eurolines coach links to many countries in western Europe, the tie-up with Alsa will create a huge, continent-wide transport operation.
Alsa presently operates the most profitable coach lines in Spain and has a market share of over 50 per cent. Its origins date back to 1728 when the first transport systems linking the western areas of Asturias with the central area were in their infancy. In 1964, it launched its first international route, linking Oviedo, Paris and Brussels. The development of a broad network of services in Switzerland and Portugal as well as Spain followed, leading to a network of scheduled transport between the autonomous regions which was completed in 1999 when Alsa bought Enatcar. In 1984, the company set up business in the People's Republic of China, forming a joint venture taxi company in the city of Shenzhen. Today, it is established in three main cities and operates in 16 provinces with services to 436 destinations.
15 years later, Alsa invested $10 million dollars in a 17-route network when it won the bid for city transport in Marrakech and in 2001 began to operate long-distance inter-city services and urban transport in the Chilean capital, Santiago de Chile. Earlier this year, Alsa was expected to be one of the companies competing to operate the new "tranvía" light transport system in Vélez-Málaga, but in the end failed to submit a bid.
Greenpeace calls for ban on nuclear vessels
By David Eade
The recent arrival of the Royal Navy's nuclear powered submarine HMS Turbulent in Gibraltar has led to the environmental group Greenpeace to urge the Spanish government to ban all nuclear vessels from visiting its ports.
The arrival of HMS Turbulent shortly after a five-day visit by nuclear sub HMS Trenchant has again provoked political turbulence in the Campo de Gibraltar, Andalucía and now with the intervention of Greenpeace has opened the debate on nuclear vessels at a national level.
HMS Turbulent is a sister ship of HMS Trenchant and both belong to the Royal Navy's fleet of Trafalgar class submarines. These vessels are capable of firing a range of missiles including Tomahawks. Indeed HMS Turbulent along with submarine HMS Splendid fired barrages of Tomahawk missiles at targets in Baghdad during the start of the war in 2003.
Britain's Ministry of Defence refused to say how long HMS Turbulent would be in Gibraltar but like HMS Trenchant it was only a matter of days. The MoD stated that the visit was a long-planned one and that the Spanish Government had been advised via NATO.
Greenpeace says that the visit of HMS Turbulent to Gibraltar was the tenth of a nuclear submarine since the commencement of the war in Iraq and the seventh since PSOE took over the government of Spain. The environmental group says there is evidence of complacency on behalf of the socialist administration to the presence of nuclear vessels not only in Gibraltar but in Spanish ports as well.
A statement from Greenpeace points out that nuclear powered vessels have one or two reactors, which provide its energy. It argues that this forms a constant risk to the marine environment and for the populations in the ports where these vessels dock.
Greenpeace expresses its indignation at the latest visit of a nuclear submarine to Gibraltar and urges the Spanish and British governments to permanently halt the presence of nuclear submarine not only in Gibraltar but also in other ports. Juan López de Uralde, director of Greenpeace declared: "It is incoherent of the Spanish government to claim that they are annoyed by the nuclear submarines in Gibraltar when they welcome nuclear powered vessels to Spanish ports. The presence of nuclear powered vessels and those with nuclear arms should be permanently banned from Gibraltar and also from Spanish ports."
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