News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week March 23rd to March 29th 2006.
EASTER STRIKE THREATS FOR MÁLAGA
Airport stoppages planned for April 12, 13, 16 and 17
BY DAVE JAMIESON
MÁLAGA'S AIRPORT AND HOTEL SECTOR WILL BE CRIPPLED AT EASTER IF NEGOTIATIONS DO NOT PRODUCE AGREEMENTS IN THE NEXT FORTNIGHT.
Trades unions have threatened to call out workers at Málaga and other airports on the Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday of Holy Week, April 12, 13, 16 and 17. The CCOO and USO, which represent two-thirds of employees at airports operated by Aena, say the action will be taken in protest at the lack of response they have received from the Government over their concerns about airport management in the autonomous regions.
The Catalan airport El Prat has become the latest sticking point for negotiations over the region's demands for greater autonomy from Madrid. The unions want an assurance that Aena's airports will continue to be managed as a network to guarantee, by means of an agreement with all workers, that working conditions and salary levels will be maintained. Other Andalucían airports which would be affected by the planned action include Sevilla, Jerez, Córdoba, Almería and Granada. The Sevilla control centre would also be hit if an estimated total of 1,000 Aena workers in the region walk out.
HOTELS ALSO ON STRIKE?
A planned stoppage by workers in the hotel sector has also been threatened. The UGT and CCOO unions have called a meeting for Monday, April 3, at which delegates will make a final decision on the stoppage, although union officials seem certain it will take place. The provincial tourism secretary of the UGT, José Antonio Sedano, said it would more likely be a series of one-day strikes on important dates around Easter, than an indefinite walk-out. He added that there had been no recent contact with management groups.
The workers planned strike is due to unsatisfactory general working conditions and more specifically due to the refusal to the petition of a salary and category rise for hotel room staff.
British driver arrested after hitting woman
Drunken driver seemed totally unaware of what had happened
BY DAVID EADE
A DRUNKEN BRITON WITH THE INITIALS APF IS ALLEGED TO HAVE RUN OVER A WOMAN WITHOUT KNOWING IT AS HE PARKED HIS CAR IN A RESIDENTIAL ZONE OF LOS NARANJOS IN NUEVA ANDALUCÍA, MARBELLA.
The unnamed victim, who is not seriously injured, was at the time unloading suitcases from a car parked nearby.
Official sources state that the man was so drunk that he did not realise that he had hit the woman with his BMW nor did he hear her cries as he left the car for his house nearby. Within minutes the ambulance service and local police were on the scene. The female victim was rushed to the Costa del Sol Hospital whilst officers started to question locals as to what had happened.
The local police were sent to the house of the Briton at 00.45 but despite repeated attempts to raise him received no answer. It is believed the man was asleep drunk and did not answer the door till around 03.00. It was obvious to the officers that the man was under the heavy influence of drink and whilst he offered no resistance neither was he said to be aware of what had happened.
The Briton is believed to be part of the management team of an American restaurant in Puerto Banús. He appeared before the court on the following day but was released on bail, as the woman had not died in the incident.
DRINK DRIVING PROBLEM
According to local residents the Briton, who is aged around 50, is said to have previously arrived home in a drunken state whilst driving his car and it is believed the recent incident was a direct result of his habitual drink driving.
Marbella town planning dispute
By David Eade
The councillor of the presidency of the regional government, Gaspar Zarrías, has spoken out on the need of the Andalucía authority to take over the planning responsibilities of Marbella Town Hall. He accused the local authority of acting in a manner that was 'totally unsustainable' and said it 'scorned the law, the town planning laws and judicial sentences'. Sr Zarrías made his comments just days after the regional government started to withdraw Marbella's town planning powers. The Andalucía authority justified its actions after it was reported that the Town Hall was alleged to have ignored 80 orders to stop building work from the Andalucía High Court (TSJA). It is said that these projects did not have a legal licence and furthermore the Town Hall turned a blind eye to 250 provisional suspension orders. If that wasn't enough regional government says the Town Hall did not fulfil 40 requests it made to check all building licences granted by previous mayors of Marbella. These developments appear to contravene the 1986 local development plan, which is the one that regional government and courts deem to be valid. The actions by the socialist-led Andalucía authority have been welcomed by the local PSOE party. It says the move is both positive and beneficial and argues that regional government had no option but to take over local town planning. However the Partido Popular fears that the actions of the regional government could damage the town's property sector and local economy. For her part, Mayor Marisol Yagüe, is said to be consulting with legal experts to see what action can be taken to defend the municipality's interests. Nonetheless, for once it appears that she is reluctant to open up a direct conflict with regional government.
Málaga drinks bash dampened by rain
'Botellón' party-goers in other cities clash with police
By Dave Jamieson
WHILE LAST FRIDAY'S PLANNED OPEN-AIR DRINKING FESTIVAL IN MÁLAGA WAS ALMOST WASHED OUT BY THE WEATHER, SIMILAR 'MACRO-BOTELLONES' ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY LEFT DOZENS UNDER ARREST AND AROUND 70 INJURED, INCLUDING SOME POLICE OFFICERS.
The 'botellón', the name given to Spain's open-air drinking parties, is widespread, with official figures suggesting that half a million 14- to 30-year-olds participate every weekend. The practice originated as a response to the high price of alcohol in many bars and clubs, with participants instead buying drink cheaply in local shops and consuming it outdoors. Last week, an e-mail campaign urged people across Spain to attend botellones on Friday night to underline what they believe is their right to drink alcohol in public places (CDSN, March 16 - 22).
Málaga's event was on a car park of the university campus and a turnout of thousands was expected, but by midnight only about 800 people were left braving the elements. Cars became temporary bars as the rain fell and there was more water than alcohol in evidence. News of the event had raised concerns amongst some residents, while Málaga's mayor, Francisco de la Torre, had come under fire for refusing to ban it.
Events in Barcelona left 68 people slightly wounded during clashes between 200 revellers and police in the Rambla del Raval area which resulted in 54 arrests. Officers are reported to have used rubber bullets and baton charges in attempts to control the crowd as the pitched battles continued most of the night. Thirty-six police officers and a firefighter were amongst the injured.
In Salamanca, 16 people were arrested after setting fire to 10 rubbish containers, leading to confrontations with police and fire officers, as well as health care workers. The regional government said one local police officer had been hit on the head with a block of concrete wielded by a minor. A city official said about 100 of the "roughest and out of control" youths had attacked firefighters attempting to extinguish the blazes, but noted that with an estimated 2,500 on the streets, it had been a minority which caused trouble. Damage was estimated at 24,000 euros.
GRANADA TOPS 20,000
In Granada, where the event was allowed to take place in a designated area, a crowd estimated at over 20,000 gathered for the event, with around 50 requiring treatment for alcohol poisoning, but there were no reports of violence or injury. In Madrid, where drinking in the street is already an offence, 300 police officers patrolled the plaza Dos de Mayo, the area of the anticipated gathering, and successfully dissuaded party-goers from congregating.
British woman arrested for stabbing
NEWS Staff Reporter
Guardia Civil officers arrested a British woman in Mijas last week for allegedly stabbing her neighbour during a fight. Initial reports indicated that the woman, A.M.B., was considered the primary suspect in the stabbing but that the victim did not actually see her do it.
The incident occurred on the second floor of block four in the Jardín Botánico urbanisation in Mijas Costa, apparently as the result of a schoolyard conflict between the British woman's daughter and the daughter of her neighbour's maid. According to the neighbour, he and his maid and her daughter went to confront the woman about her allegedly having grabbed the maid's daughter by the neck following a run-in between the two young girls. Things became heated and the British woman allegedly brandished a knife. But it wasn't until the neighbour, his maid and her daughter were down in the parking lot that the man, P.C., noticed blood on his shirt and realised he had been stabbed. He was treated at the Hospital Costa del Sol in Marbella for a six-centimetre-deep stab wound in the left side of his torso.
Regional government steps in to Selwo row
President Chaves opposes the idea of a luxury housing complex
BY DAVID EADE
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT, MANUEL CHAVES, HAS STEPPED IN TO THE ROW OVER WHETHER SELWO SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP PART OF ITS ESTEPONA ADVENTURE PARK.
Sr Chaves has spoken out to oppose the idea of building luxury housing on the site because he is of the opinion that such a project is incompatible with the quality of environment required on the Costa del Sol.
This has led to Estepona Town Hall changing its mind about future plans for Selwo. Now Mayor Antonio Barrientos has pointed out that the proposal to change the zoning to residential would be totally legal but added that he opposes it for purely aesthetic reasons. He is now seeking the assistance of regional government to come up with a plan that would maintain Selwo as one of the Costa's major entertainment venues.
FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES FOR SELWO
The problem is that Parques Reunidos, the company running Selwo, applied for permission to build on the site because it claims the adventure park has run into financial difficulties. Estepona Town Hall is left with an awkward decision because it has ceded Selwo the land for 70 years.
If Selwo does not get its way it could close down the site leaving it abandoned for over 60 years. Estepona Town Hall believes its best option would be to cancel the original lease and to invite offers from other companies to take over the project but in a different form.
The Town Hall had planned for a new Selwo that would still have a small zoo but around two-thirds of the land would be re-zoned to allow luxury homes to be built there with the new company having to repay what the original investors spent over a six-year period. However it is now obvious that Estepona will only move with the agreement of the regional government.
Caleta marina poised for major expansion
By Dave Jamieson
Caleta de Vélez will have a marina capable of mooring almost 1,000 boats in two or three years time. More detailed news of the marina's expansion came from the director of the Andalucía Public Ports Authority, Montserrat Badía, when she visited the town last week to discuss its future as both a base for the local fishing fleet of more than 100 vessels and an important recreational facility.
The fleet will have a 35,000 square metre dock from which to operate, while the 125,000 square metres earmarked for private use will expand the existing number of moorings by 709 to 986. A new 850 metre long breakwater, parallel to the present one, will be constructed, as will another of 490 metres to contain the fishing fleet's moorings.
It is hoped that work can begin on the 66 million euro project early next year, while it is expected to take at least three years to complete, without including the planned new fish market and other associated buildings.
Upgrade for Solymar Plaza
Benalmádena Town Hall unveils million-euro plan
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
BENALMÁDENA TOWN HALL HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS TO SPEND ABOUT A MILLION EUROS ON UPGRADES TO THE SOLYMAR PLAZA AND ADJACENT STREETS.
Commercial properties and an underground garage in the area have recently experienced moisture damage. Work to install waterproof barriers beneath the plaza and roads is already underway, and the Town Hall has decided to take advantage of the tearing up of the surface to carry out broader improvements.
While the project may still evolve as the works are carried out, initial plans call for creating wheelchair access throughout the plaza area, refurbishing the sculpture platform, beautifying the garden zones near Avenida Antonio Machado and installing underground rubbish and recycling containers. The plaza and road surfaces being torn up for the installation of the waterproof barriers will be replaced with new tile or cement work.
Mayor Enrique Bolín and a team of municipal workers visited the site last week to check the progress of the initial phase of work – the waterproofing and resurfacing – and to fine-tune plans for the other elements of the project. The mayor said he expected the first phase to be finished by Semana Santa.
Weekend storm puts dent in drought
Heavy rainfall boosts Costa reservoirs
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE HEAVY RAINFALL OVER THE WEEKEND GAVE A MAJOR BOOST TO RESERVOIRS ON THE WESTERN COSTA DEL SOL, PUTTING A MAJOR DENT IN THE DROUGHT AND GUARANTEEING SUFFICIENT SUPPLIES FOR SUMMER.
But the city of Málaga, which received the most actual rainfall, benefited less, as the reservoirs it relies on are located in the northern Guadalhorce Valley, where the rain was less copious.
La Concepción Reservoir, located between Marbella and Istán, has seen the greatest improvement in its reserves. Just four months ago it was technically empty, with the five cubic hectometres of water it contained practically useless due to silt levels. But rainfall since then, including the weekend deluge, has brought the reservoir up to nearly 39 cubic hectometres, 70 per cent of its capacity and greater than the amount of water it held at this time last year.
While La Concepción's recovery, along with help from wells and the now operative Marbella desalination plant, puts the western Costa del Sol in good shape for summer, as a whole the province's six reservoirs remains low. They are at around 35 per cent capacity, compared with 50 per cent a year ago.
That being the case, officials hastened to point out that Málaga, the Costa and the Guadalorce Valley remain on drought alert and no lifting of water-use restrictions is expected. For the drought measures to be officially called off, "it would have to rain in enormous quantities," according to the regional Water Authority (CMA). The Guadalhorce reservoirs, which received just four to seven cubic hectometres of water in the weekend storm, would need an additional 90 cubic hectometres for the drought to be declared over, said CMA.
From last Friday to Monday evening the rainstorm dropped a total of 96 millimetres of rain in the city of Málaga, 71 millimetres in Ronda, 67 millimetres in Fuengirola, 43 millimetres in Antequera and 42 millimetres in Torrox. Association seeks to unite Málaga and Ireland
NEWS Staff Reporter
A group of Ireland aficionados in Málaga has launched an association to promote Irish culture and create links between the land of Eire and the land of flamenco and bullfighting. The Irish Cultural Association of Málaga, which so far has around 50 members, is the brainchild of retiree José Antonio Sierra, who lived for many years in Ireland and worked as a cultural attaché in the Spanish Embassy there. Among other things, the association aims to make Málaga the Andalucían capital of Celtic music, with plans to launch the 'First European Festival of Celtic Music', says Sr Sierra.
Other plans include the creation of literary, artistic and educational links between Málaga and Ireland. The association wants to bring together art galleries from the two countries and promote artist exchanges. It also hopes to attract art students from Ireland and the UK to Málaga through a programme it has dubbed Art, Nature and Holidays ('Arte, Naturaleza y Vacaciones'). The group also plans an Irish cinema week, a series of conferences on the historic, literary and tourism links between Ireland and Spain, and a programme for 'twinning' schools in Málaga and Ireland.
The group was already involved in promoting the naming of a Málaga traffic roundabout after Irish painter George 'Jorge' Campbell, who lived part-time in the city. The roundabout was inaugurated last week in a ceremony attended by local officials as well as Irish Ambassador Peter Gunning. During his visit, Mr Gunning signed a written statement of his support for Málaga's bid to be named the European Capital of Culture for 2016.
Nerja sign deadline
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Aenerja business association in Nerja has issued a statement reminding businesses in the town that they have only a week left to bring advertising signs on their premises into line with new Town Hall requirements. The original deadline was December 31, but a three-month delay was agreed after a demonstration outside the Town Hall and a petition of protest.
When the plans were announced last October, the councillor responsible, Antonio Villasclaras, explained that the restrictions on appearance, size, positioning and height are required to maintain the aesthetic appearance of town centre streets, but traders claimed it was one step too far. Under the new regulations, signs must project no more than 15 centimetres – just under half the width of a page of the Costa del Sol News – and be a minimum of 2.20 metres above the ground. The colour must resemble wood or brass, and pictures of each sign must be submitted to the Town Hall for approval.
A petition submitted by the business sector at the end of last year maintained that illuminated signs are an important form of advertising and that their removal would leave some streets without any lighting. Tourism would be disadvantaged if displays were not sufficiently visible outside hotels, shops, restaurants and estate agents, it said.
But the Council has remained firm and says that any signs which do not meet the requirements after the end of March will be dismantled by municipal workmen at a charge of up to 500 euros to the proprietor.
Major celebrations for Province Day
Special commemorations for "La Pepa"
BY DAVID EADE
THE PROVINCE'S DAY WAS CELEBRATED IN STYLE AT THE PALACIO PROVINCIAL IN CÁDIZ BY THE DIPUTACIÓN AND ITS OFFICIAL GUEST, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT, MANUEL CHAVES.
During the ceremony "plaques of gold" were presented to amongst others the local soccer team that was celebrating its first season back in La Liga, Jerez guitarist Paco Cepero, and the Bay of Algeciras port authority. In addition the Casablanca-born actor, Jean Reno, who lives in France, was made an 'adopted son of the province' as his father came from Sanlúcar and his mother from Jerez.
Meanwhile, in a separate ceremony, Cádiz town hall and the Club Liberal 1812, held a commemoration at the site of the "Cortes" parliament to honour the 1812 Constitution known colloquially as "La Pepa". The event was presided over by the mayor of Cádiz, Teófila Martinez and the spokesperson of the Parliamentary Partido Popular Group, Eduardo Zaplana.
Local journalist Andrés Herrera explained: "March 19 is an important day for Cádiz and for Gaditanos. We celebrate the fact that it was in this city that the first Spanish constitution was signed. It was March 19 of 1812 and this event marked an important historic day for Cádiz and for Spain.
"A funny anecdote about this constitution is that March 19, the day when it was proclaimed, is the day of "San José". In Spain, the name Pepe is the diminutive of José. The feminine form of the name is Pepa. As the word "constitución" is feminine, people started to call it "La Pepa", because it came into being on March 19.
"There was a very ingenious reason for it having this name. Two years after the constitution was signed, the king abolished it. Any reference to it was banned, and even mentioning its name was forbidden. This was a problem for supporters of liberalism because they wanted to claim it. They had to find a way to express their ideas but without mentioning the word "constitución". And that's why they called it "La Pepa". They could refer to it without saying that forbidden word. The expression "Viva la Pepa" (long life to Pepa") was used instead of "Viva la Constitución" (long life to the constitution)."
Anti-war protest marks anniversary
Thousands take part in Madrid demonstration
By David Eade
AROUND 5,000 PEOPLE ARE SAID TO HAVE TAKEN TO THE STREETS OF MADRID ON SUNDAY TO DENOUNCE THE INVASION AND WHAT MANY SEE AS THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ THAT MARKED ITS THIRD ANNIVERSARY ON MARCH 20.
Both the ruling socialist PSOE and left-wing Izquierda Unida leaderships spoke out against the war whilst the conservative Partido Popular insisted that its then government led by José María Aznar was right to join the USA in the military action against Baghdad.
The organisation secretary of PSOE, José Blanco, speaking in Guipúzcoa praised the actions of the present government and of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero for withdrawing Spain's troops from Iraq. He also condemned the then PP administration for backing an "illegal" war.
Sr. Blanco stated that PSOE had always viewed the Iraqi war as being "illegal" and "unjust". He further justified the current Madrid position by pointing to the "50,000 dead, the pain and the destruction" as well as the "bitterness, lack of reason and destruction" that was now prevalent in Iraq.
Meanwhile the Parliamentary group of the IU-ICV party has called upon Spanish Parliament to insist that the government sends to the International courts of Justice all the documentation behind the Spanish government's decision to back the war.
PP DEFENDS DECISION
However, the Partido Popular spokesperson in Parliament, Eduardo Zaplana, speaking in Cádiz, said the administration of José María Aznar did what it had to do and explained its reasons and motives to the nation, and was backed in its decision to support the war at least by part of the population although admittedly many citizens were opposed to the administration's stance.
New maternity leave law
News Staff Reporter
There is good news on the horizon for expecting mothers who are self-employed. The Junta de Andalucía has announced a new law – still in draft form but expected to be passed by year end – that will provide 16 weeks of paid maternity leave for women who work for themselves.
Women who are self-employed (or 'autónomo', to use the Spanish term for officially registered self-employed workers) will thus receive same length of paid maternity leave as their wage-earning counterparts, though in many cases the amount they are paid will be less. The exact figure has not yet been established, but officials say the pay for 'autónomas' will probably be 1.5 to 2.5 per cent above Spain's minimum wage (540.90 euros/month). The idea, say officials, is that self-employed women will be able to use the money to pay for someone to substitute them during their leave.
The Junta's Employment Department says the measure is aimed at meeting the needs of a fast-growing sector of the labour pool. Between 2001 and 2005, the number of self-employed workers in the region jumped by 20 per cent, compared with 13 per cent countrywide. Andalucía has a total of around 500,000 'autónomos' – 54 per cent of them women.
The Junta also plans other assistance and incentives for self-employed workers. Its budget for such expenditures will increase by 44 per cent to 36 million euros this year, say officials. Measures will include consulting and training programmes, labour-safety plans, promoting the creation of associations for self-employed workers and assisting in identifying sources of financing. There will also be financial incentives for family businesses to officially hire family members on permanent work contracts.
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