News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week 1st - 7th June 2006
Tranvía delay puzzles Vélez people
By Dave Jamieson
The failure of Vélez-Málaga's Town Hall to announce an opening date for the new tranvía is puzzling residents. After several weeks of reportedly successful trials, officials last week appeared to be back-pedalling on the project with transport councillor Sara Sánchez stating that summer, "with its great increase in tourists and cars, is not the best time" for the light transport system to begin commercial operations. The town's Mayor, Antonio Souviron, however, said it would start in late June … possibly.
Opposition councillors quickly made the most of the situation, with one claiming the delay was for political gain. The Partido Popular's representative, Francisco Delgado Bonilla, said that the intention of Mayor Souviron was to delay the inauguration as long as possible in order to gain maximum kudos from it in next May's local elections. The PP councillor went on to describe the tranvía as an "aberration" and as "Souviron's dream which will become a nightmare for the people of Vélez," because of its running costs and safety issues. Others joined in the attacks on the ruling PSOE party with the Andalucía Socialists describing the light transport link between Vélez and Torre del Mar as a "whim" of the mayor. The Vélez Association of Retailers and Businesses said it wanted to see if the tranvía really could unite Vélez and Torre del Mar, while their opposite numbers in Torre said it could only be useful if the east coast rail line ever became a reality.
Work on phase two starts
Despite the delay in opening phase one of the tranvía, work on phase two began this week. A 1,300 metre extension in Vélez-Málaga will take the lines from the present terminus to the old railway station, planned to be a future transportation hub. The project has a budget of seven million euros.
Police crackdown on major time-share gang
15,000 people affected, the majority of them Britons
BY DAVID EADE
THE NATIONAL POLICE HAVE BROKEN UP A GANG OPERATING ON THE COSTA DEL SOL THAT IS SAID TO BE THE MAJOR GROUP DEDICATED TO A MASSIVE FRAUD REVOLVING AROUND THE RE-SALE OF TIME-SHARE PROPERTIES.
It is estimated that 15,000 people have been caught out by the gang; the majority of them British, and the criminals have succeeded in taking around 18 million euros.
The gang is said to have operated in Málaga Province for the past six years. Over that period that have used more than 300 companies and employed over a thousand people. In the police operation code named 'Trafalgar' eight people were arrested from the UK, South Africa, Belgium and Norway. They were arrested in Fuengirola, Mijas and Coin and after appearing before the courts were released on bail.
The fraudsters are accused of using every known method to extract money from their victims in the time-share resale sector. They indicated to the property owners that they had a party interested in purchasing their share but needed funds for the legal process. They also offered time-share packages to would-be buyers when they had nothing to sell them and allegedly used fake documentation to make it appear they were legally authorised to fight time-share fraud on behalf of people who had been cheated by other companies. All the contacts were carried out by telesales staff.
FROM THE CANARY ISLANDS TO THE COSTA DEL SOL
According to the police the gang had moved to the coast from the Canary Islands in 2000 opening offices in Fuengirola and Mijas. They set up companies in the time-share sector and sought clients from the UK and central Europe. The network had the appearances of being totally legal as all the companies were registered in Spain in the names of those implicated in the scam. The companies were closed down overnight and new ones opened when the first legal complaints were received against them.
The majority of the frauds were carried out on Britons and Germans outside of Spain. Hence it took months for complaints to reach the National Police and on many occasions the documentation was incomplete. Investigators estimate that the 15,000 frauds accounted for up to 90 per cent of the time-share scam on the coast in recent years. The money obtained by the gang is said not to be in Spain but the country in which the ring leaders resided.
FBI arrest child porn suspect in Nerja
By Dave Jamieson
A 63 year old American has been arrested in Nerja by FBI officers working with the Spanish authorities. The US agency in Florida issued a statement to confirm that William Lee C. was detained in the town last Thursday.
The man was scheduled to stand trial in Sarasota County, south-west Florida on February 2 on 126 counts of possessing child pornography. He failed to appear for the hearing, after which a warrant was issued for his arrest and an international manhunt began.
The arrested man, an internationally renowned videographer and gymnastics coach, is accused of downloading illegal images onto his computer and is said to have subscribed to a child pornography Internet site with his credit card to obtain sexual images involving children. In addition, he has now been charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
The American, who lives in the US cities of Cleveland, Sarasota and Venice, was president of the Copp Academy of Trampoline and Tumbling, and was known for his videos of gymnastic competitions in the 1970s. The teams he coached won several national and world trampoline titles and he became the first American to earn the Master of Sport designation for his work in training coaches. He was also president of the World Acrobatics Society.
Mozart and Mariza at Nerja Caves Festival
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THIS YEAR'S FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND DANCE AT NERJA CAVES WILL OPEN WITH AN EVENING DEDICATED TO MOZART.
The programme for the 47th international event, which will take place between July 18 and 21, was announced by the Caves Foundation.
The opening concert will be given by the Symphony Chamber Orchestra of Galicia, conducted by Massimo Spadano, with the soprano María José Moreno in a lyric gala to mark the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. The next night will see the Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra under Aldo Ceccato at the Caves in a programme of music by Saint-Saens and Albéniz amongst others. They will be joined by the violinist Ivan Zanaty.
An innovation this year comes on Thursday, June 20, with an appearance by Portugal's Mariza, a singer of fado. At one time, fado was only sung by older women in mourning clothes, but Mariza, with her short blond hair and fashion conscious style, represents its new face. Born in Mozambique, she grew up in Portugal, and now sells out audiences in Europe and the US. She has performed with Sting and Peter Gabriel and has a new CD out called "Transparente."
TWO DAYS OF DANCE
The final two days of the festival will be given over to dance, presented by the Antonio Gades company. Part of their programme will consist of six scenes inspired by Lorca's "Blood Wedding", while the remainder will be a display of classic Andaluz dance styles, entitled "Suite Flamenca."
Tickets for all performances are priced at 60 euros and, as ever, will be as hard to find as gold dust.
River delta to benefit birdwatchers
News Staff Reporter
Two new bird observatories are to be built around the mouth of the Guadalhorce river. Last week's Official State Bulletin confirmed that the contract for their construction had been awarded with a budget of over 600,000 euros.
The area is a 67 hectare natural park and its proximity to the sea makes it a haven for marine birdlife. Kentish Plovers breed here and osprey appear during migration. Rare species are frequently seen, including the Western Reef Heron which was spotted in 1996. In winter there are colonies of Cormorants and Blue Herons while Fan-tailed Warblers breed commonly and, unlike in other areas, are highly visible. Breeding around the ponds are the Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler and Little Bittern.
In addition to the two observatories, an elevated mirador will be constructed and a new access round from the N-340 will be built. Since 1982, the area has been under the protection of the Junta de Andalucía following some years of uncontrolled rubbish dumping, and private construction is prohibited.
Drought restrictions eased on Costa
Improvement in 'La Concepción' dam water levels
By David Eade
THE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE THAT OVERSEES THE DROUGHT CONDITIONS HAS EASED ITS RESTRICTIONS ON THE SUPPLY AND USE OF WATER ON THE WESTERN COSTA DEL SOL.
The move has been sparked by the improvement recorded in recent months to the water levels in La Concepción dam, which now is at 100 per cent capacity.
The drought decree on the coast was introduced last November due to the serious water shortage in the reservoirs. However the committee has now decided that as of June 1 gardens can be irrigated and swimming pools filled albeit with certain restrictions.
The decision was announced by the regional government's minister of the environment, Fuensanta Coves, at a press conference this week. Although water conservation is still a priority water use has been increased. Now homes can use 250 litres per person per day instead of 230 litres. Swimming pools can be filled but only once a year. Gardens and agricultural land can be irrigated to the limit of 500 cubic metres per hectare each month.
In the case of non-drinkable water the limits have been extended to 700 cubic metres per hectares per month for golf courses. However the use of this type of water for agricultural use and for irrigating fruit trees has been kept at the previous level of 200 cubic metres.
Although La Concepción dam is at capacity the other reservoirs in Málaga province are still at danger level. The summer period is fast approaching and this is a peak time for the use of water on the coast. The reservoirs have a total of 236 cubic hectometres of water, which is much less than last summer. Indeed in the last 12 months 42 cubic hectometres of water has been lost leaving the reserves now at the 39.2 per cent level compared with 46.1 per cent a year ago.
Smoking and lung cancer risk
News Staff Reporter
José Fernández, a neumologist at the Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella, has stated that nine out of 10 lung cancer cases discovered on the coast can be traced to smoking. He stated that the patients involved were either smokers or had smoked.
The specialist added that in many cases there were genetic factors as well but that smoking could be traced as the deciding factor and lung cancer would not have developed in normal circumstances. A sobering statistic given by Dr. Fernández was that only 13 per cent of those affected by lung cancer could be operated on and 24 per cent of those diagnosed in 2004 had since died.
The public is taking action against smoking and last Sunday the hospital and municipality supported an event in the Alameda park where the message was 'Marbella sin Tabaco'. On the professional front experts in treating lung cancer held a forum at the hospital under the direction of Dr. Fernández and Francisco Javier Álvarez on Monday. A marquee was set up in the Alameda on Tuesday to test the public's lung capacity and carbon monoxide levels.
EU aids Spain in coastal watch
Illegal immigration to the Canaries reaches record levels
By David Eade
SPAIN AND NINE OTHER EU MEMBER STATES HAVE REACHED AN AGREEMENT ON PATROLLING THE WATERS OF ATLANTIC AFRICA TO TRY TO STEM THE FLOW OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO THE SHORES OF THE CANARY ISLANDS.
According to the country's secretary of state for security, Antonio Camacho, the action is planned till September but could be prolonged.
Sr. Camacho was speaking after a meeting with the European Commission, the European Frontier Agency, as well as with Finland, France, Italy, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Portugal and Austria, the latter of which currently holds the EU presidency.
The secretary of state stated that the meeting had produced for the first time a common political voice on the control of the frontiers of the EU. The zone will be patrolled by both sea and air and will involve at least five patrol boats, five helicopters, a support aircraft, officials and the crews of each.
The vigilance will be over five zones in which the boats carrying the illegal immigrants to the Canaries use most heavily and will cover all of Senegal and Mauritania as well as the Cape Verde. The EU announcement was made as levels of illegal immigration to the Canary Islands reached record levels.
Cártama restoration project unveils secrets
By Dave Jamieson
Restoration work on a Cártama church has revealed hidden treasures. The Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is presently undergoing a 130,000 euro facelift, to which the Town Hall has added 50,000 euros and a two month extension following the new discoveries.
The coordinator of the work, Francisco Zambrana explained that numerous paintings and decorative elements had been found once residues of dust and smoke had been cleaned off. Images of flowers and exotic birds appeared from under the dirt in a long and slow cleaning process. The most important finds are images of the four evangelists, which Sr Zambrana said were completely blackened by oxidisation and from the smoke produced by candles lit in the church. Although the works have not yet been dated, they are in the neo-Baroque style.
Cártama's Ermita is considered one of the best examples of 18th century religious architecture in the province of Málaga. It was declared a building of significant cultural interest by the Junta de Andalucía and is the monument regarded as most representative of the Guadalhorce valley. The restoration programme was initiated principally to clean Baroque motifs on the ceilings and walls which have deteriorated due to dampness.
"Canon" fired against pirates
By Dave Jamieson
The cost of home entertainment is set to rise after the Spanish Senate's approval of a new surcharge on digital equipment. A revision of the Intellectual Property Law approved last week has given the green light to the introduction of a "canon" or levy, intended to compensate the owners of copyright works which are copied or "pirated" by private individuals.
The Government has introduced the new tax to comply with an EU directive dated April 19 which gave Spain two months to fall into line with European legislation from 2001, under threat of daily fines if it did not. Equipment which is likely to be subject to the new charge includes the hard disk in personal computers and the high-speed Broadband lines which bring the Internet into homes and businesses. A definitive list is expected from the departments of Culture and Industry.
However, the new legislation is not without its critics who have condemned it as "indiscriminate", arguing penalties should be meted out only to those who make copies for financial gain. Over 200,000 signatures have been added to a petition calling for the new canon to be withdrawn.
The activists' website – todoscontraelcanon.es – sets out ways in which it claims the tax will unfairly penalise certain groups, such as those who legally download music and bands who wish to make their music available free of charge. They argue that it will inhibit economic development in Spain and disadvantage new businesses with an extra 22 euros on a typical family computer, 9 euros on a digital camera and an additional 35 euros per year on a broadband ADSL Internet connection. With the new tax also applying to blank CDs and DVDs, they calculate it will cost the average family 303 euros per annum and will generate an estimated 710.5 billion euros every year for the Government, a sum which they consider excessive in the fight against piracy.
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