News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week November 3rd to November 9th 2005.
WET AND WILD IN NERJA
Expat couple battles TownHall over flooding cellar
By Dave Jamieson
WHILE AN ONGOING DROUGHT HAS MOST PEOPLE IN THE REGION WORRIED ABOUT WATER SHORTAGES, ONE EXPAT COUPLE IN NERJA IS EMBROILED IN A BATTLE OVER JUST THE OPPOSITE PROBLEM – TOO MUCH WATER, WHICH IS CAUSING THE CONTINUOUS FLOODING OF THEIR CELLAR.
Pat and Mike Philpot bought their house in the Nerja Golf area nine years ago, and all was well until five years later when construction began on a new development immediately adjacent. During the work, water pipes were rerouted in the system that supplies many properties in the area.
By the spring of this year, humidity levels in the Philpots’ cellar, which was being used for storage, had increased appreciably, with a consequent increase in the insect population, and water began seeping in. By May, the situation was so bad that a pump had to be hired because of the rising level of the flood.
The Town Hall was contacted and an engineer turned up to turn off the supply, which immediately stopped the flooding, demonstrating that the problem was not within the Philpots’ property, says the couple. But this was not a permanent solution, as it also cut off water to numerous neighbouring properties, so had to be turned back on.
Four days later, Nerja Town Hall, which is responsible for the supply and its maintenance, was reported to the Guardia Civil over the issue, and a week later a second meeting at the Town Hall resulted in a visit to the Philpots’ house by councillor José Alberto Tomé Rivas. As well as the flooding of the cellar, Sr Tomé saw that damage was also being caused to the roadway outside and that water was now appearing in a garden across the road. By this time, Pat and Mike had been forced to purchase a water pump to keep the cellar dry.
A neighbour whose property was also affected said he was willing to help, and a contractor was hired to dig a number of exploration holes at both addresses in an effort to find the source of the leak, but without success.
Meanwhile, the water pump broke down and another had to be hired.
The contractors trying to fix the problem arranged a meeting with the municipal technical department for October 20, six months after the Town Hall had first been contacted. At the meeting, however, Town Hall officials claimed they knew nothing about the problem, say the Philpots.
Pat and Mike say they are still pumping water out 24 hours a day at the rate of around a litre per minute. This means that from May to October, as drought hit the Axarquía, as much as 250,000 litres of water have literally gone down the drain via the Philpots’ cellar. While the couple have incurred expenses and been deprived of the use of their cellar, they say they are more concerned about long-term damage caused by water seepage to all houses in the area, as well as by the Town Hall’s apparent failure to address a serious infrastructure and environment issue.
King trial ends
Prosecutor maintains petition for 34-year prison sentence
By Oliver McIntyre
ON MONDAY, THE FINAL DAY OF THE TRIAL OF TONY ALEXANDER KING FOR THE MURDER OF COÍN TEENAGER SONIA CARABANTES, THE PROSECUTOR RESTED HIS CASE AND ASKED FOR A GUILTY VERDICT AND A 34-YEAR SENTENCE PRISON FOR THE BRITON.
“There is sufficient and overwhelming evidence to show that the accused was the author of the murder,” said the prosecutor, Antonio González. In support of his request for maximum sentencing, he cited a “serious risk of re-offence.”
The prosecutor’s final petition for sentencing included 20 years for murder, nine years for sexual aggression and five years for illegal abduction.
In his closing statements, the prosecutor cited testimony and evidence given at trial showing that King does not suffer from psychosis affecting his ability to control his actions. Stains of the victim’s blood were found in the interior and in the trunk of King’s car and King’s DNA was identified in samples taken from the girl’s fingernails and hands, he said. After the crime, witnesses saw wounds on King’s face, hands and legs, said the prosecutor, injuries that were caused by “the fighting and self-defence of the victim.”
The act of sexual aggression was evident from the nude state in which the victim was found, with her shirt twisted around her neck, her bra torn and scrapes on both of her breasts, said the prosecutor.
King’s defence lawyer, Javier Saavdra, argued in his closing statements that the only facts proven at trial were that Srta Carabantes is dead and King was present at the scene of the crime. He cited one witness who reported seeing a non-foreign man running from the street where the crime occurred. He also said the evidence was clouded by the identification of the DNA of a third person in King’s car, a woman whose DNA was also found on cigarette ends in King’s home.
King himself made a final statement as well. “Everything that has been said are theories based on vengeance and hatred toward me,” he said. He disregarded the expert testimony given at the trial as “contaminated.”
At press time, the judge in the case had not yet announced a verdict.
Officials were warned of ‘Ballena Blanca’ in 2002
By David Eade
It has been revealed that the Bank of Spain was warned at the end of 2002 about the activities of a group of Israelis who were investing in the Andalucía coast. At the time, the central bank took no action on the group, which has since been caught up in the ‘Ballena Blanca’ (‘White Whale’) international money-laundering investigation.
The allegation against the Bank of Spain is made by lawyer Jorge Poggio, who is now accused of money laundering and tax fraud. He claims that in December 2002 he sent a letter to SEPBLAC, the bank’s money laundering prevention commission, advising it that he was suspicious of the Israeli group’s activities, but that he never received a reply.
Poggio says his letter included information about a former client, Israeli financier Eyal Daysi. He was a resident of Sotogrande, had property interests in Estepona and Manilva, and two of his urbanisations in La Línea, developed by Alleerton holdings, have been embargoed in the Ballena Blanca investigation. Daysi is now the subject of an international detention order issued by the investigating judge in the case, Miguel Ángel Torres.
It is alleged that Daysi represented a group of small Israeli investors who wanted to enter the Spanish property sector. They allegedly sent their money from various lawyers in Israel to an office in another country and when a sufficient sum had been received, construction land was purchased. Poggio claims he took no part in the meetings or business of the group but only signed the deeds.
Poggio told Judge Miguel Ángel Torres that whilst he was suspicious of the Israeli group’s activities, he continued working with them because he did not receive any word from SEPBLAC that it was illegal. The Bank of Spain has made no statement on whether or not SEPBLAC received or acted upon Poggio’s letter. An official spokesperson said that the bank does not make statements on matters relating to money laundering.
Junta error puts councillor in the clear
By Dave Jamieson
A Nerja councillor is breathing a little easier following a correction by the Junta de Andalucía. Environment councillor José Miguel Jimena had been accused by the regional government of building a number of houses on land in an area protected for agricultural use. In June, his family firm, Pago de Río Seco, was instructed to pay a fine of 873,520 euros and told to remove an access road as well as water and power supplies from the construction site. The Junta said it was particularly concerned about five of the houses, built between January 2001 and November 2003 and then sold, a move prohibited by the municipality’s local development plan (PGOU).
The Attorney General’s office in Málaga quickly set aside the charges, but the Junta refused to back down on its action, prompting charges of “political persecution.” The delegate responsible at the Junta, José Marí Ruiz Povedano, later appeared to indicate the matter was not at an end, despite the ruling.
Nerja Mayor José Alberto Armijo challenged the Provincial Commission for Public Works and Transport on the issue, and last week his persistence paid off. The Town Hall received notice from the commission renouncing the previous ruling that the land was only for agricultural use. While welcoming the change of heart, Mayor Armijo described the Junta’s original accusations as “irresponsible” and said that he considered that a formal apology to the Town Hall and to councillor Jimena would be in order.
No hiding place on the Costa del Crime
By David Eade
THE BELIEF THAT CRIMINALS WANTED IN OTHER COUNTRIES COULD SEEK SANCTUARY ON THE COSTA DEL SOL HAS BEEN SMASHED BY INTENSIVE ACTIVITY BY THE NATIONAL POLICE.
The one-time Costa del Crime is now under close police and judicial scrutiny and the province of Málaga now accounts for a quarter of all the arrests in Spain of foreign criminals wanted by the courts in other countries.
Between January and September of this year more than 50 foreign criminals have been detained in Málaga by the special central unit for locating fugitives (UCLF). Amongst those arrested by officers from this force in that eight month period are nine Germans and an equal number of French citizens, six Britons, four Dutch plus two from Italy, the USA and Argentina.
Drug traffickers top the list with 19 arrests almost double the second most sought after criminals who are fraudsters of whom 10 have been seized. Two have been arrested on murder charges, money laundering and robbery whilst there has been one detention for terrorism, another for forging documentation, a kidnapping and a rape.
It will perhaps come as no surprise that the majority of the arrests, 15, were made in Marbella. Málaga city coughed up 14 wanted international criminals followed by Torremolinos (6), Estepona (3), Fuengirola (2) and Vélez-Málaga (1).
‘FIND AND CAPTURE’ WARRANTS
Arrests in Spain of wanted international criminals are carried out on ‘find and capture’ warrants either issued by Interpol or the Sirene Office, which deals with cases committed in countries that are signatories to the Schengen Treaty. Once the arrest has been made the police check to establish the true identity of the person and then make enquiries as to whether the criminal is wanted in Spain. The case is then passed to the High Court within 24 hours for the necessary extradition proceedings to take place.
Court orders closure of Alhaurín quarries
By Oliver McIntyre
The Andalucía Supreme Court (TSJA) has ruled against an appeal filed by four Alhaurín de la Torre quarries, upholding the 1999 ruling of a Málaga court that called for the closure of the quarries due to lack of proper licences. Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall said at the weekend that it had not received official notification of the ruling but that once it had, it would comply in full and order the closure of the quarries.
The ruling affects the Taralpe, Retamero, Pinos de Alhaurín and El Troconal quarries. According to the TSJA’s finding, the first three sites have licences only for screening and sorting quarry material, not extracting it, while El Troconal has no licence at all.
The quarry companies have indicated they will appeal against the TSJA ruling. Trade union representatives have said that if the ruling stands and the quarries are ordered to close, major strike action in the remaining quarries is likely. The closure of the quarries would result in the loss of some 270 jobs, they say. The ACP points out that the quarry industry directly impacts the construction industry, which employs some 115,000 people in the province. Prior to the resolution of last year’s quarry-workers strike, the action began to significantly impact the construction industry, leaving many projects temporarily paralysed due to a lack of materials.
'Catch-22' Hamstrings new health centre
By Oliver McIntyre
THE NEW TORREQUEBRADA HEALTH CENTRE IN BENALMÁDENA, LAUNCHED IN AUGUST WITH PARTIAL STAFFING, IS LOCKED IN A ‘CATCH-22’ SITUATION THAT IS KEEPING IT FROM OPERATING AT FULL FORCE AND MEETING ITS GOAL OF RELIEVING OVERCROWDING AT THE ARROYO DE LA MIEL HEALTH CENTRE.
Many local residents say they refuse to transfer their primary-care services from Arroyo to the new health centre until the new facility has more staffing and can thus guarantee good service. But Andalucía Health Service (SAS) officials say they will not increase staffing until they see greater demand at the new centre.
Benalmádena’s Health councillor, Enrique Moya, confirmed that the Torrequebrada centre is “operating at only 30 per cent of its capacity.” The centre currently has three primary-care doctors, a paediatrician and an emergency room that is open from 8.00 to 15.00.
NOT ENOUGH STAFF
The opposition Izquierda Unida party in the town says it has received numerous resident complaints about the low staffing at the new health centre. “It is absurd to have a new centre of these characteristics and not use it 100 per cent, given the overcrowding at the Arroyo de la Miel clinic,” said IU councillor Elena Benítez. The party says it plans to take the issue to the regional parliament.
Nerja reacts to east coast marina announcement
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja’s Mayor says that the final decision on siting the eastern coast’s new marina should take local opinion into account. José Alberto Armijo’s comments followed last week’s announcement from the Junta de Andalucía that the leisure development would be built on the border between Nerja and Torrox.
After a meeting with the regional government’s councillor for public works, Concepción Gutiérrez, Mayor Armijo said that the Junta intended to dissociate the Axarquía’s second marina from future real estate developments and would not make a final decision on its precise location until relevant technical studies and a basic project plan had been developed by Andalucía’s Public Ports Authority. This plan would define the characteristics and number of moorings of the new facility.
Nerja Town Hall has asked that, when the time comes for final decisions, the views of local municipalities should be taken into account. Sr Armijo indicated that the signs were “positive” that the marina would be in the Punta Lara area, on Nerja’s western border with Torrox, and pointed out that in the town’s development plans, technical studies indicate that this would be an ideal site. However, while a marina has been a Nerja ambition for many years, the Mayor made it clear that he did not wish a decision on its final siting to become a subject of confrontation with Torrox which wants the development sited a few kilometres further west.
Marbella’s new postal codes
By David Eade
Five months ago the post office changed the postal codes in the municipality of Marbella. The old 29600 number that used to be the main code is now only used for letters addressed to the post office boxes or ‘listas de correos’ located at the Marbella post offices.
According to the post office on an average day the municipality will receive 50,000 letters for distribution in the various zones. However, it is estimated that only around 1,000 of these have the correct new postcodes. This obviously means that the letters then have to be re-sorted with the inevitable delay in delivering mail.
Nicolás Lavela, who is in charge of mail distribution in Marbella, explained that unless a letter had the correct post code it could easily end up at the wrong address. For example letters for San Pedro or nearby Nueva Andalucía might not specify which of the two it is for yet both zones have streets of the same name so they may be incorrectly delivered.
The postcode for central Marbella is now 29601. The zone from the centre to San Pedro de Alcántara is 29602. From the centre going east to Las Chapas the code is 29603, which also covers part of Las Chapas itself. The major part of Las Chapas is covered by 29604 whilst 29660 is the code for Nueva Andalucía. Finally the code for San Pedro de Alcántara is 29670.
Benalmádena names 'Neighbourhood Mayors'
By Oliver McIntyre
AT A CEREMONY AT BENALMÁDENA TOWN HALL LAST WEEK, MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS NAMED THE 12 NEW DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVES, OR ‘NEIGHBOURHOOD MAYORS’, WHO ARE TO SERVE AS LIAISONS BETWEEN RESIDENTS AND THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
“I am very happy, very satisfied,” said Mayor Enrique Bolín, calling the new district-representative system “a service to residents.” With the rapid growth of the town in recent years, he said, “today it is very difficult to attend personally to each citizen who has an issue.” The district-representative system will provide residents in each neighbourhood a contact person through whom they can voice their concerns, suggestions and requests for Town Hall action on day-to-day issues that affect their lives, he said. He cited examples such as broken streetlamps, potholes, dangerous slippery pavements or the need for the installation of stoplights, crosswalks or other safety-related infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the ‘Neighbourhood Mayors’ – all of them serving as non-paid volunteers – will also provide the Town Hall a conduit through which to get information out to residents regarding what the local government is doing and why, said the mayor.
The district representatives will serve as “the eyes and ears of the mayor in each neighbourhood,” said councillor Manuel Crespo. While Town Hall officials tend to view issues more globally throughout the town, the representatives will help provide localised details from each neighbourhood, as relayed to them by residents.
Similar representatives have already served some neighbourhoods for many years, but the formalised programme, which officials have been working on setting up for the last year, is just now being introduced town-wide. One such representative, Blas García Fernández, said at last week’s ceremony that in the 25 years he has been serving Arroyo de la Miel in this capacity, “nearly everything I’ve requested from the mayor has been done.”
In the coming weeks, each of the representatives will be sending out an introduction card to the residents of his or her district. The cards will let residents now who their representative is and how to contact him or her.
The district representatives are Eduardo Gómez Martín, Elvira Moreno de la Torre, Remedios Herrero Moyano, Rafael Calderón Moreno, Antonio Jorge Reina Small, Manuel Lozano López, José Marín Márquez, José Blanco Fernández, Blas García Fernández, Francisco José Losada Gómez, Francisco Cantón Alarcón and Juan Carlos García-Borreguero Gámiz Echevarría.
Málaga hospital gets new name
Carlos Haya to become Blas Infante
By Dave Jamieson
A MOVE TO CHANGE THE NAME OF MÁLAGA’S CARLOS HAYA HOSPITAL HAS BEEN APPROVED BY THE PROVINCIAL HEALTH COUNCIL.
After last Wednesday’s meeting, Health councillor María Jesús Montero confirmed that the proposal to rename the hospital had been approved by a majority vote. Previously, approval for the change has come from groups of residents, consumers and professionals, while the region’s Social Security and Health departments have also given their blessing. Final approval will now be sought from the provincial government, a formality which is unlikely to result in a rejection, after which the hospital will receive its new name, Hospitalario Blas Infante, while Carlos Haya will be relegated to the history books.
Carlos de Haya Gonzala was born in 1902 and began his military career at the age of 16. He joined the Air Force in 1926 and was in Málaga in July 1936 when the ‘Movemiento’ began. Earlier, in October 1930, as Lieutenant Carlos Haya and with Captain Cipriano Rodríguez, he broke the world air speed records flying 2,000 and 5,000 kilometres in times of 16 and 25 hours respectively, giving Spain a place amongst the most aeronautically advanced countries in the world. He died during the Civil War in February 1938 when his plane was shot down over Teruel.
FATHER OF ANDALUCÍA
The hospital’s new namesake, Blas Infante is known as the father of modern Andalucía. He was born in the white village of Casares in 1885, attended school in Málaga and Córdoba, and obtained a law degree from the University of Granada. During the celebration of an international congress in Ronda in 1913, Blas Infante presented a famous speech which began, “The moment has come for the privileged to die,” part of his life’s campaign to bring autonomy to Andalucía. Blas Infante, whose words are those of the Andalucían anthem, was imprisoned during the Civil War and on August 10, 1936, shot dead. As he fell, he shouted out his famous last words: “Long live free Andalucía!”
Cádiz's bird flu risk zones
By David Eade
CÁDIZ BAY AND THE DOÑANA NATURAL PARK ARE AMONG 18 WETLAND AREAS DECLARED BY SPAIN’S MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AS HIGH BIRD FLU RISK ZONES.
Measures are to be put into effect to try to stop the spread of the potentially deadly infection. A ban is to be put on breeding free-flying birds within a 10-kilometre radius of these areas; zoos which are near the risk areas, such as Jerez, will have to shut their birds in or vaccinate those which are flying free, and bird shows are also prohibited throughout the country.
The Ministry for Agriculture is responding to EU regulations governing member states to identify and control potentially risky areas. They will also impose bans on open markets selling live birds except in special circumstances. In Portugal the tests on 17 dead birds have proved negative but a 60-year-old chicken farmer is hospitalised whilst tests are awaited on some of his dead stock.
Spanish experts say there is no cause for concern and have criticised ‘sensationalist’ articles which have appeared in some newspapers and on television warning of a pandemic, as they say these are alarmist. Gibraltar’s authorities also issued a don’t panic warning stating that there is no realistic threat at present adding that at the moment normal flu is a bigger threat to people’s health than any bird flu.
AVIAN FLU GROUP SET UP
Gibraltar’s Government has set up an ‘Avian Flu Group’ that includes a vet plus an environmentalist who has expert knowledge of migrating bird patterns in Gibraltar, the Campo area and across the Straits. In a statement the group said that there is no indication that bird flu may affect birds in or near Gibraltar in the near future. Nor is it currently possible for an avian flu pandemic to affect human beings, because in its present form this bird flu virus is not capable of being transmitted between human beings.
Royal birth marks future reign in Spain
Baby princess is second in line to Spanish throne
By Oliver McIntyre
AT 1.46 MONDAY MORNING PRINCESS LETIZIA ORTIZ, WIFE OF SPAIN’S CROWN PRINCE FELIPE OF BORBÓN, ALSO KNOWN AS THE PRINCE OF ASTURIAS, GAVE BIRTH VIA CAESAREAN SECTION TO THE COUPLE’S FIRST CHILD, A BABY GIRL WEIGHING 3.54 KILOS AND MEASURING 47 CENTIMETRES.
The new ‘Infanta’, as Spanish princesses are known, is named Leonor and is the second in line to succeed to the throne, after her father.
“This is the most beautiful thing that can happen to a person in his life,” said a beaming and emotional Prince Felipe at a press conference just before 6.00 Monday morning, referring to his daughter’s birth. He told the press that he and his wife chose the name Leonor “because it has many historic links, but also because we liked it.”
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, after visiting the newborn on Monday, described their seventh grandchild as “chubby and round.” Shortly after the King and Queen’s visit, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero arrived at Madrid’s Clínica Ruber Internacional to meet the gurgling future monarch.
Princess Leonor, like her aunts Princess Elena and Princess Cristina, Felipe’s sisters, carries the title ‘Alteza Real’, or Royal Highness. Under Spain’s current constitutional rules on royal succession, which give preference to male offspring, the baby princess would retain her position in line for the throne only if her parents do not subsequently have a son. However, lawmakers have stated their intention to remove the gender reference in the constitutional article regarding royal heredity, which will assure Princess Leonor’s status as future Queen of Spain.
Fuel protests gather strength
By Dave Jamieson
First it was the lorry drivers, followed by the fishermen - and next could be the farmers, miners and steel workers. All sectors have been hit by severe rises in fuel prices and two groups have already taken action and achieved results.
A fortnight ago, a two-day protest by the country’s lorry drivers ended after they were exempted from a special fuel tax levy, while last week a marathon talks session between officials and fishermen brought to a conclusion a several-day blockade of all Spain’s Mediterranean ports. The strike-ending deal increased the fuel subsidy for fishermen, from 0.06 euros to 0.09 euros per litre.
The blockade threatened shipments to liquefied natural gas terminals in cities such as Barcelona and Bilbao. Boats also sealed off Tarragona, Murcia, Castellon, Valencia, Almeria and Alicante while access to fish markets in each of the towns was also blocked. The strike was costly. In Barcelona alone, where hundreds of tourists had to be put up in hotels when their vessels were unable to sail, the blockade was said to have cost the port authorities about three million euros per day.
Disruptive and costly fuel protests may not be over. The day after the port blockades ended, agricultural workers threatened to “blockade the country” if the Government does not respond to their demands for support by November 15. A meeting between the Government and the agriculture organisations has been set for tomorrow.
Farming groups have said all the country’s roads will be blocked with tractors if subsidies are not made available, and have threatened “serious” protests for next Thursday and Friday, November 10 and 11. Last Friday, several hundred farmers and about 50 tractors blocked the centre of Jaén, causing delays and traffic tailbacks in a forerunner of what may be to come.
In addition to the farmers, miners and steel workers have threatened national strikes this month in what is rapidly turning into a bleak winter for President Zapatero’s socialist government.
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