News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week January 12th to January 18th 2006.
DRUGS CRACKDOWN AT SCHOOLS
Youngsters between 14 and 15 years old are the highest users
By Dave Jamieson
MORE THAN 3,000 LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ARE PARTICIPATING IN A NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGN TO DRIVE DRUGS OUT OF SCHOOLS.
The Ministry of the Interior put the new plan into operation on Tuesday, the start of the new term, and says it will continue for at least two years. It will also take in youth clubs and other places where young teenagers gather.
In Málaga, directives have already been followed and a census of all schools and colleges has been drawn up, each graded by its risk factor, based on incidents recorded in the past. Police officers, who will be in uniform at all times, will observe students when they are taking a break or engaging in activities outside the classroom. They will also be liaising closely with teaching staff to pool information on drug dealing and consumption.
TARGETING THE 14-YEAR-OLDS
The Minister of the Interior, José Antonio Alonso, said that the operation was being introduced in response to the rise in the number of children and young people trafficking and consuming drugs. Those between 14 and 15 years old are reported to be the highest users. At the same time, he added, the age at which they begin to use drugs has dropped, suggesting that they find it easy to acquire the illegal substances.
Minister Alonso said that local and regional police would support 1,818 Guardia Civil and 1,306 National Police officers in their objective of ensuring a safe and healthy atmosphere for the education and development of young people. The scheme will be subject to analysis every three months.
DRUG ARRESTS OF MÁLAGA MINORS TRIPLES
Meanwhile, the number of minors arrested for consuming drugs on Málaga streets has tripled in a year. Local police in the city say that 285 under-18s were detained during 2005, compared with fewer than 100 the year before. In the same period, the number of adults accused of the same offence has doubled, from 1,255 to 2,449.
The statistics published last week show that 94 per cent of minors found using drugs in public areas are male, and include twice as many 16 year olds as 17 year olds, a figure which has surprised officers. The youngest drug user detained for consuming drugs on the city’s streets last year was just nine years old. Fines typically ranged between 150 and 300 euros.
Police said the north and centre of the city were worst affected, with arrests made in areas where late-night open-air drinking is common, in leisure zones, in streets surrounding schools and colleges, and in parks and plazas. As much as 82 per cent of the cases involved the consumption of hashish, with cocaine second most common drug at 15 per cent. Others, more difficult to detect, included a mixture of heroin and cocaine, as well as a number of so-called designer drugs.
In addition to imposing a fine on the offender, the parents of a convicted minor receive a letter from the Local Police, an action followed after an arrest of either illegal drugs or alcohol consumption.
Construction strike underway as officials seek
By Oliver McIntyre
ON MONDAY CONSTRUCTION WORKERS IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA BEGAN THEIR SCHEDULED ONE-WEEK STRIKE IN PROTEST OVER OFFICIALS’ FAILURE TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THE ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE QUARRY WORKERS’ STRIKE THAT HAS BEEN ONGOING SINCE NOVEMBER 28.
According to the CC.OO trade union, which called the construction strike, the majority of workers in the province have laid down their tools in support of the action. However, the Association of Builders and Developers stated that 70 per cent of the halted projects were already paralysed prior to the construction strike due to the lack of materials caused by the quarry strike. The construction strike is scheduled to run through to January 15.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Junta de Andalucía and Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall met earlier this week to discuss possible solutions to the quarry situation. The quarry conflict stems from the court-ordered closure of four Alhaurín quarries due to lack of proper licences.
POSSIBLE “OPEN DOOR”
Prior to the meeting, Alhaurín Mayor Joaquín Villanova presented a proposal for a quarry-restoration plan that he said would guarantee workers’ jobs, as well as a supply of quarry materials, for at least seven years. The workers would be employed in the restoration work and the materials generated from that work – such as from the creation of terraces in the side walls of the quarries – would be processed to create gravel and sand. During the seven-year period, the Junta would have ample time to create a global quarries plan for the province, said the Mayor.
Going into this week’s meeting, Junta officials had expressed cautious optimism about the Mayor’s proposal, calling it a possible “open door” to a solution. But the quarry companies said they did not view it as a viable solution because restoration work would not require a full workforce.
The anti-quarry group Platform for the Defence of Alhaurín’s Health and Sierra (PDSS) viewed the proposal as a little more than a “camouflaged illegality,” a backhanded bid to allow extraction work to continue at the quarries.
At press time, the results of this week’s meeting had not become public and it was unclear if a solution to the quarry conflict was imminent.
Gangster arrests total nearly 1,000
By David Eade
According to figures supplied by the left wing Izquierda Unida party the National Police organised crime squad in Málaga province arrested 923 alleged criminals in 2005 in 184 cases linked to Mafia style gangs.
In addition the IU says that the police believe there are more than 120 organised criminal gangs currently operating on the Costa del Sol. Also, last year alone, the police recorded at least 50 abductions and ‘adjustment of account’ killings between rival criminal groups.
Antonio Romero, the IU MP in the Andalucía parliament, has described the government’s response to this high level of mafia activity as “insufficient”. He has called upon the Ministry of the Interior to create a plan to fight the organised crime on the Costa del Sol at an international level. He argues that this should be done both by co-ordinating police activity within Europe and also extending the campaign to the United Nations.
Amongst more radical calls for action by the IU are the elimination of so-called offshore ‘fiscal paradises’ as well as the unification of Spain’s National Police and Guardia Civil forces. The new force, says the IU, should be under the sole control of a State security body that would be co-managed by the central and the Andalucía government. Sr Romero also called for the police to be allocated more interpreters who speak the same languages as the members of the international gangs.
Sicilian mafia on Costa
According Joan Queralt, an expert on the Sicilian mafia known as the ‘Cosa Nostra’, the criminal network underwent a crisis in the 1990s but has now re-emerged. In his new book ‘Crónicas mafiosas’ Sr Queralt says the mafia has used its wealth gained from illicit activities in Sicily to invest in the property sector on the Costa del Sol and Balearics.
Killer speeds reduced by radar monitoring
But traffic deaths up in province last year, despite nationwide decrease
By Dave Jamieson
ROAD DEATHS IN MÁLAGA LAST YEAR WERE 10 PER CENT UP ON 2004, CONTRASTING SHARPLY WITH A FALL OF 5.2 PER CENT FOR THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE AND IN DESPITE OF IMPROVEMENTS IN SOME LOCAL BLACK SPOTS THANKS TO THE USE OF FIXED-RADAR MONITORING.
Ninety-three people lost their lives in the 1,628 traffic accidents recorded in the province during 2005, eight more than in the previous year. Experts say the majority of accidents are caused by inexperienced young drivers travelling at high speeds, drunken driving or a failure to take safety precautions on short journeys. Speeding is seen as the greatest threat, and was demonstrated to be a contributory factor in almost 40 per cent of last year’s road accidents.
But 2005 has also seen a reduction of 30 per cent in road accidents at known black spots is where speed cameras have been introduced. The head of Tráfico in Málaga says that the average speed of traffic has lowered by between four and 10 kilometres per hour (kph) in the areas where the radar systems are known to be operating. José Vico cited studies which predict that for every kilometre-per-hour reduction in speed, the accident rate falls by three per cent, which is exactly what has happened on Málaga’s eastern ring road, the A-45.
At El Palo, when the cameras were introduced around the Cerrado de Calderón tunnel in July, the average speed fell from 102 kph to 95 kph. Some 2.4 per cent of almost two million vehicles were observed speeding, with the top speed recorded a terrifying 193 kph.
Sr Vico said the accident rate was the first criterion considered when siting new radar units. The second criterion was the infrastructure necessary for the installation.
Three more radar speed checks went into operation west of Málaga last month, although no data from these has yet been made public. They are located on the A-7 in Fuengirola (at km 204 on the eastbound carriage), Mijas (km 200 westbound) and Estepona (km 164 westbound) and bring the total in the province to five, with two more expected to be installed this year.
Meanwhile, the holiday season, from December 23 to January 8, saw a sharp increase in traffic deaths nationwide compared to the same period last year. There were 176 deaths, 39 more than last year, in 152 fatal accidents, 41 more than in the 2004-05 holiday season. Andalucía was the deadliest region, with 30 deaths in 26 fatal accidents.
Bodies found in Gaucín and Marbella
By David Eade
It was a grim festive season for law enforcement officers in Gaucín and Marbella, with the discovery of the bodies of two men who both appear to have died in suspicious circumstances.
The Gaucín body is thought to be that of a man reported missing from his home in San Pedro de Alcántara a year ago, as an identity card was found in his trouser pocket. The man is said to be a Moroccan, aged between 30 and 40, who was dressed in summer clothes and slippers. He is believed to have been the victim of a violent death and is said to have previous criminal convictions.
The alarm was raised on New Year’s Day when a hunter reported finding a human skull. The Guardia Civil searched the La Almunia area of Gaucín, close to the stretch of the A-369 road that links the village with San Pablo de Buceite, and a few days later officers discovered the rest of the body around 80 metres away.
Meanwhile in Marbella the National Police are investigating the death of a man who was found in a blazing car in Nueva Andalucía. When the fire brigade arrived at the scene it appeared to be a routine vehicle fire, but as the flames were extinguished it became clear that a man was inside.
The silver-grey Fiat Brava was parked outside an Indian restaurant close to a hostess nightclub. Police state that the car was registered to a Málaga man and had not been reported stolen. Officers are now trying to establish whether the man inside the car was its owner and are investigating whether the blaze was an accident, suicide, or murder.
Málaga kiosk owners plan tobacco action
National one-day strike planned for January 30
By Dave Jamieson
SPAIN’S NEW ANTI-SMOKING LAWS HAVE COME AS A BLOW TO MANY RETAILERS IN MÁLAGA, WITH ONLY GOVERNMENT-OWNED TOBACCONISTS AND VENDING MACHINES NOW PERMITTED TO SELL PACKETS OF CIGARETTES.
Badly hit have been the owners of kiosks but they are not taking it lying down with a national one-day strike planned for January 30.
In Málaga, Jerónimo Núñez is president of Akima, the association of the city’s kiosk owners, which estimated that during the first two days of the new legislation, members takings were down between 30 and 35 per cent. Sr Núñez said that over 700 people had already signed a petition to be sent to the Congress of Deputies protesting against the change. He said the new arrangements “are playing with our future”, adding that while the sale of tobacco alone does not generate huge incomes, it does prompt customers to buy other goods at the same time.
Already some specialist tobacconists are facing closure, while the National Association of Newspaper Retailers has called on its members to stop work for a one day on Monday, January 30. The group claims sales are down 35 per cent and it will lose more than 20,000 of its clients as a result of the new laws. There are more than 700 kiosks in the province of Málaga alone and many are collecting signatures on a petition with the message, “Tobacco is a legal product – why can’t I sell it?”
TOBACCONISTS IN DIRE STRAITS
There has also been criticism of the new law as it applies to tobacconists situated inside public centres, where smoking is now prohibited. Those holding concessions for such outlets have been given a year to find new premises outside the centre, but within a radius of a kilometre from their present base and at least 200 metres from another tobacconist. Around 300 businesses are thought to be affected nationwide, with owners concerned that if suitable new premises cannot be found, it will be impossible to continue to make a living through the sales of only stamps and official documents.
However, the Málaga Association of Tobacco and Stamp Retailers says that the new laws have had little effect on cigarette sales, although admitting that it was very early to analyse results. The group’s vice-president, Mario Espejo, added there was “a great lack of information and much confusion” over the new regulations, and pointed out the irony of their members being obliged to display “No Smoking” signs inside their premises.
Marbella Town Hall faces residents’ protests
News Staff Reporter
It might be a New Year but it brings further bad news for the embattled Mayor and ruling group of Marbella. The Marbella and San Pedro civil action group has stated that it is in discussions with other residents’ groups in the municipality with the intention to organise a major demonstration demanding the resignation of the local government team and to voice their disgust at the degeneration of the democratic process at the Town Hall.
The spokesperson for the group, José Luis Hernández, has stated that the various scandals surrounding the Town Hall are both damaging the economic well being and the public image of Marbella. He argued that the local people could no longer allow this situation to continue, as it would have serious implications for the future of the town.
The ruling group at Marbella Town Hall dismissed the demonstration threat, as being organised by a group that was created by the opposition Partido Popular and said it had no credibility. Mayor Marisol Yagüe also stated that she had no intention of bowing to PP calls for her to resign over the pending court action brought by the construction company Copasur that carried out improvements to her home and has also alleged that she used municipal funds to pay for the work.
Bolín challenges water authority
Benalmádena’s mayor issues public criticism of CMA
By Oliver McIntyre
BENALMÁDENA MAYOR ENRIQUE BOLÍN HAS ISSUED A PUBLIC CRITICISM OF ANTONIO RODRÍGUEZ LEAL, THE HEAD OF REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY CUENCA MEDITERRÁNEA ANDALUZA (CMA).
Sr. Bolín criticised the agency’s lack of solutions to water problems in the Costa region. “Despite the urgent [drought] measures adopted,” said Sr Bolín, there remains an “absence of long-term, definitive solutions to this serious problem.”
The mayor stressed that he has for several years been requesting the construction of a pipeline to bring water from the La Viñuela reservoir in the Axarquía to the towns of the western Costa del Sol, “to provide greater guarantees in our supply.” La Viñuela is the province’s least depleted reservoir, currently at around 63 per cent capacity. “The pipeline could run right along the Autovía de la Costa del Sol to get it done quickly and reduce the cost,” said the mayor.
Other medium- and long-term solutions suggested by Sr Bolín include better connecting local watersheds, capturing and utilising water from Río Genal by routing it to the reservoir in Istán, and building more desalination plants. The mayor said he has personally offered the minister of the Environment a site in Benalmádena for the construction of a desalination plant.
Estepona centre closed to traffic
News Staff Reporter
One of the main streets in Estepona and certainly the busiest has been closed again to traffic following its temporary re-opening over the festive season. The calle Terraza is undergoing a major remodelling programme. It was closed on Tuesday and will remain so at least for the next three months.
The first phase of the work was carried out before Christmas when the street was re-opened to allow shoppers easy access to the central commercial zone. The second phase should be completed by April 7 because during ‘Semana Santa’, which this year starts on April 9 the area is the scene of the town’s numerous Easter processions.
Warning signs have been placed on the approaches to the calle Terraza zone but drivers are advised to avoid the area entirely. The upgrade of the street is being carried out as part of the project to create an ‘open commercial centre’ in the traditional shopping area in order to woo people back from the out-of-town shopping parks.
Guaro to get huge outdoor auditorium
‘Auditorio Luna Mora’ to be ready in two years’ time
By Oliver McIntyre
THE TINY GUADALHORCE VALLEY TOWN OF GUARO – WITH JUST OVER 2,000 RESIDENTS – IS SOON TO HAVE AN OPEN-AIR AUDITORIUM THAT COULD SEAT NEARLY ITS ENTIRE ADULT POPULATION AT ONCE.
Details have been revealed about the future Auditorio de la Luna Mora, a grand, 1,600-seat outdoor theatre that will become the centre-point of the town’s annual Luna Mora festival, which in recent years has begun attracting big-name musical acts and thousands of visitors from all over the province. Local officials say it could be built and in operation within two years, becoming the province’s second-largest outdoor auditorium, after the 13,000-capacity arena at Málaga’s fairground.
The Guaro auditorium has a budget of 2.68 million euros, 75 per cent of which will be split between the Junta de Andalucía and the provincial government. The Town Hall will pay the remaining 25 per cent. The project comes under the Junta’s Stage Venue Infrastructure Programme (PIE). In the province of Málaga, which was the last in Andalucía to join the programme, the PIE calls for a doubling the number of theatres and concert venues in the next two years, from the current 63 to 129. The Las Lagunas theatre in Mijas is one such project, and others have been announced in Álora, Ardales, Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama.
Major cocaine haul in Rota
Arrests anticipated as investigation continues
By David Eade
ONE OF THE LARGEST HAULS OF COCAINE FOUND IN SPAIN FOR SEVERAL YEARS WAS DISCOVERED BY CUSTOMS OFFICERS ON BOARD A SMALL YACHT IN ROTA.
The authorities were aware of the possibility that a large amount of drugs would be brought into one of the ports in the Gulf of Cádiz over the Christmas/New Year period.
Several weeks of investigation paid off when the ton of cocaine, worth around 42 million euros was found in the ingeniously designed double bottom of an eight metre-long Spanish registered yacht called ‘Aralar’. Customs officials are now on the trail of the yacht’s owner, captain and crew and arrests are anticipated.
Officers said the investigation was ongoing and a number of flats and properties on urbanisations on the Andalucía coast had either been raided or were being watched. Customs also believe that more than one yacht was involved in this operation.
According to the Customs service yachts such as the ‘Aralar’ are now being used to collect cocaine from a supply ship on the high seas that has sailed from Colombia, Venezuela or the Antilles. The modus operandi of the drugs traffickers is to use recreational yachts, which attract little attention to bring the cocaine in to ports in Portugal, Morocco and Spain.
Anti-drugs groups in Cádiz have for some time been asking the Customs service to take action against the former traffickers of hashish who are now importing cocaine into the province. The campaigners believe that the groups that traditionally used to smuggle cocaine in to Spain via the Galicia coast have now teamed up with these hashish mafias who have moved from the Campo de Gibraltar to the North East coast of Cádiz where the routes are more secure and stable.
TRAFFICKERS MOVE TO CÁDIZ
Francisco Men, president of the anti-drugs group ‘Nexos’ said that the gangs that used to operate in Galicia are now looking to the province of Cádiz as operations there are more profitable and less risky. He observed that the traffickers had first switched from tobacco to hashish and now to cocaine as a kilo of cocaine was 100 times more valuable than a kilo of hashish and the shipments were smaller and easier to hide. Also, according to the Drugs Observatory, cocaine was now the preferred drug of choice amongst young Spaniards.
Rafael Aguilar, vice president of the anti-drug group ‘Redein’, stated that the discovery of the cocaine haul in Rota was proof that the traffickers had now moved their operations to the north east coast of Cádiz. He added that move was due to the success of the SIVE electronic surveillance system that monitors sea movements in the Straits of Gibraltar but has yet to be installed on the north east coast.
Medical marijuana testing underway
By Oliver McIntyre
THE AUTONOMOUS REGION OF CATALUÑA HAS BEGUN ITS YEAR-LONG PILOT PROGRAMME FOR THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA IN THE TREATMENT OF SEVERAL ILLNESSES OR THEIR SIDE-EFFECTS.
Officials say the programme, which will involve a total of 600 patients, is aimed at confirming the efficacy of marijuana treatment for cancer patients suffering from nausea due to chemotherapy; for multiple sclerosis patients suffering muscle pains; and for AIDS patients suffering appetite and weight loss.
So far, 10 patients have been selected to receive the treatment, consisting of an oral spray derived from marijuana extract. Four began treatment on December 10 and the rest are getting set to begin. These initial patients are being treated at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Hospital, but the pilot programme will also be extended to three other public hospitals in the city, as well as two others outside the capital of Cataluña.
The marijuana spray being tested is called Sativex and is imported from Canada, where its use has been approved for relief of muscle pain in adults with multiple sclerosis.
The Catalan government announced the pilot programme last October, saying that in 2007, once data from the study results are known, the future policy for medical marijuana use will be established. During the pilot phase, the marijuana spray will be administered to 130 multiple sclerosis patients with neuropathic muscle pain; 130 patients with neuropathic muscle pain from other causes; 40 AIDS patients suffering appetite and weight loss; and 300 cancer patients with nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatments.
Andalucía’s foreign residents increase
News Staff Reporter
The number of foreign residents officially resident in Andalucía has risen from 1.4 per cent of the population in 1998 to 4.2 per cent in 2004. According to data issued by the Statistics Institute of Andalucía the largest increase in immigrants has been recorded in Almería and Málaga.
These statistics indicate that the official number of foreign residents living in the region has more than tripled over a six-year period. In 2004 Málaga province registered the largest number of marriages between Spaniards and foreigners whilst on a less cheerful note it also recorded the most deaths of foreign residents. For its part Almería recorded the largest number of births to foreigners.
Another interesting fact is that foreigners moving to live in Andalucía now outnumber Spaniards from other parts of the country that relocate there. According to the institute 55.5 per cent of new residents in the region are foreigners although the actual figure is higher as many of them do not officially register at the town hall.
Illegal immigration down for a second year
The number of illegal immigrants entering Spain on ‘pateras’ (launches) has dropped for the second consecutive with 25 per cent fewer boats detained in 2005 than 2004. Indeed the figure for last year was the lowest since 1999 with improved policing of the coastline and better collaboration with Morocco credited for the dramatic decrease.
On mainland Spain Almería accounted for the largest number of ‘pateras’ intercepted with 124 compared with 89 in 2004. Granada was second with 70 (down from 103), followed by Cádiz 56 (75), Málaga 31 (32) and Murcia with zero in 2005 and just one the previous year. Granada tops the list of people detained with 2,678 (2,745 in 2004) followed by Almería 1,853 (2,241), Cádiz 1,375 (1,295) and Málaga 748 (686).
New beach parking for Nerja
By Dave Jamieson
Five areas of agricultural land along Nerja’s El Playazo beach are to become car parks. The Town Hall has signed a deal with the owners, Sociedad Azucarera Larios S.A. (Salsa), to use the land free of charge for a period of three years. The agreement permits the town to make necessary improvements to the infrastructure but restricts use of the land only to parking. The Town Hall must also return the land at the end of the term in the same state as it was originally, but there is the possibility of extending the duration if both parties agree.
The area of El Playazo, on the municipality’s western boundary with Torrox, is very popular during the summer months. Its single track coastline access road is frequently blocked by parked cars, a situation which has frequently required the intervention of local police officers. The Town Hall hopes the new parking areas will eliminate the chaos that has been seen, particularly at weekends in July and August.
Salsa and Nerja last year signed a similar agreement to permit land in the centre of Maro to be converted to car parking.
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