News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week 15th - 21st June 2006
Alhaurín residents demand 19M euros for quarry dam
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
A GROUP OF ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE RESIDENTS, MOSTLY MEMBERS OF THE PLATFORM FOR THE DEFENCE OF ALHAURÍN'S HEALTH AND SIERRA (PDSS), GATHERED AT THE TOWN HALL SATURDAY MORNING AND SUBMITTED 96 CLAIMS TOTALLING 19 MILLION EUROS FOR PERSONAL DAMAGES CAUSED BY THE LOCAL QUARRYING INDUSTRY.
According to Town Hall sources, 94 of the claims, for 200,000 euros each, were submitted via a claims form drawn up by PDSS lawyer Galán Palmera while two others, for 100,000 euros each, were on different forms.
The residents, quite of few of them expats, say they are demanding the money as compensation for health problems, lowered property values and personal suffering caused by years of quarrying work carried out at four local quarries that last year were shut down by court order due to lack of proper licences. They say their claims are justified due to the Town Hall having allowed the quarrying activity to occur.
While the residents' complaints indicate they will submit supporting documentation such as medical records or proof of property damage or depreciation caused by the quarries, so far only the claims forms themselves have been filed, according to municipal officials. "No proof has been provided to justify the demand," said the Town Hall in a statement.
MAYOR UPSET WITH THE CLAIMS
Mayor Joaquín Villanova held a press conference at which he roundly criticised the claimants, calling their action an "attempt to rob from the pockets of the people of Alhaurín." He said the Town Hall would duly review the claims but that, due to the lack of any supporting documentation, they would nearly surely be denied. The mayor called the claimants misguided, saying if they want monetary compensation for damages, they should sue the quarry companies that allegedly caused them.
Sotogrande suffers another wave of robberies
By David Eade
Last week the Costa del Sol News reported on four robberies in the Sotogolf urbanisation in the luxury Sotogrande zone of San Roque. Now for the second time in a fortnight another five homes have been robbed this time in Las Lomas along with another attempted break-in.
According to the Guardia Civil the thieves in this instance used exactly the same modus operandi as they had done previously. They entered the dwellings undetected whilst the owners slept. It was only on the following day that the robberies were discovered by the victims. Investigators have made no comment on the latest wave of break-ins but in the case of Sotogolf it is known that all the dwellings had alarms that were not connected and the safes were not touched.
The wave of robberies in Sotogrande that started at the beginning of June is believed to reflect those carried out in other parts of the country over the same period. The police are of the opinion that an organised criminal gang or gangs are targeting luxury homes as the methods are the same in all the cases.
The Guardia Civil have opened an investigation in to all the Sotogrande robberies and it is an on-going enquiry but as of yet without any arrests. The local police and Guardia Civil have been patrolling the luxury urbanisation but have not deterred the thieves from acting. Needless to say the robberies have caused widespread fear and unease in the Sotogrande zone.
Regional parliament approves Marbella town plannin
By David Eade
The regional parliament met on Tuesday to approve the proposal placed by its commission of infrastructure, transport and housing that the ministry of public works and transport should take over the town planning responsibility of Marbella town hall.
The move was approved by all the parties in the Andalucía parliament with the exception of the Partido Popular. The regional government now assumes the town-planning role in Marbella for a period of five years although there are provisions for the ruling to be modified depending on the circumstances in the municipality.
Over the five year period the ministry will assume all the responsibilities of Marbella town hall with regard to town planning covering the negotiation, preparation and signing of all town planning agreements. It is envisaged that control could return to the municipality if the local elections return a stable government and once the draft local development plan (PGOU) has been approved.
Police want Guardia Civil in Mijas
Town's unique layout calls for combined law enforcement
By Oliver McIntyre
GIVEN THE OFTEN COOL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPAIN'S TWO MAJOR NATIONAL LAW-ENFORCEMENT FORCES, THE NATIONAL POLICE AND THE GUARDIA CIVIL, MIJAS TOWN HALL'S LATEST ALLY IN ITS BATTLE TO KEEP THE TOWN'S GUARDIA CIVIL FORCE MAY COME AS SOME SURPRISE.
Last week Mayor Agustín Moreno met in Madrid with National Police Director Víctor García Hidalgo, who promised to join the Town Hall in pressing the Interior Ministry to retain the local Guardia Civil squad even with the arrival of the town's new National Police force.
Traditionally, the Guardia Civil patrols smaller towns and rural areas while the National Police has jurisdiction in larger towns and cities. So with the National Police set to arrive in Mijas, the Interior Ministry announced late last year that the local Guardia Civil would soon be moved out.
But Mijas officials have long argued that the town has unique characteristics making it best served by a combination of the two forces. Mayor Moreno points to the town's three distinct and distant urban centres, far-flung rural areas, numerous urbanisations and high percentage of foreign residents. These factors "more than justify the presence of the National Police in the most populated zone – Las Lagunas – and the Guardia Civil in Mijas Pueblo and the rural districts," he says.
Not just local officials but also some Mijas residents feel strongly about keeping the Guardia Civil in the town. In the last two months, more than 7,000 signatures have been collected on a petition requesting that the Interior Ministry maintain the force, according to the signature-campaign organisers.
Also at last week's meeting, the National Police director confirmed that the Interior Ministry has budgeted 3m euros for the construction of a National Police headquarters in Las Lagunas, discarding the possibility of remodelling the existing local police station for the purpose. The Town Hall had offered that as an option since it is currently building a new station for the local police force. The new National Police HQ will be located in the expansion zone of Las Lagunas
Maro beach bus coming back
By Dave Jamieson
A shuttle service for sun seekers will again operate to the beaches of Maro – Cerro Gordo this summer. Thousands of visitors travel to the 1,800 hectares of the natural park every year, but private vehicles and accumulated rubbish have threatened to contaminate its ecosystem in the past.
The service will operate from 11.00 on weekdays and from 12.00 at weekends to provide transport from car parks down to the beaches at a fare of 1.70 euros. Return journeys will be available until 20.00.
Last season, 18,000 people took advantage of the ride down the steep tracks to the sands, although some others preferred to walk. The daily shuttle begins at the end of this month and continues until September.
'Malaya' six to stay in prison
Judge rules against former Marbella Town Hall dignitaries
BY DAVID EADE
THE MÁLAGA PROVINCIAL COURT HAS CONFIRMED THE DECISION BY THE JUDGE WHO IS INVESTIGATING THE 'MALAYA' CORRUPTION CASE IN MARBELLA THAT THE SIX CURRENTLY HELD IN JAIL SHOULD STAY THERE.
Judge Miguel Ángel Torres had ruled that the six key suspects should stay in Alhaurín de la Torre as the authorities fear they might either flee or interfere with the investigations.
As a result of the provincial court's verdict, the former mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, her first deputy Isabel Garcia Marcos and the former manager of town planning Juan Antonio Roca will all remain in jail. With them are three others Monserrat Corulla, the former councillor for traffic, Victoriano Moreno and the businessman Ismael Pérez Peña.
The Málaga court made its ruling the day after receiving submissions from the lawyers representing the six people detained.
CALL FOR LOWER SENTENCE FOR MUÑOZ
Meaning another former mayor of Marbella, Julián Muñoz, was also in court last week facing another town planning charge. The prosecutor has now reduced his prison demands asking that Sr Muñoz should be sentence to 18 months instead of 24 months in jail.
Julian Muñoz had claimed that Juan Antonio Roca had handled all the town planning applications and hence he was not to blame. In response Sr Roca appeared in court last week insisting that the now deceased ex mayor Jesús Gil had personally made all decisions about construction licences adding that he had not delegated such matters under any circumstances.
However, in another twist to the tale, the head of judicial services at the town hall, Jorge González, later told the court that Sr Roca managed "absolutely everything" regarding town planning. He added that Sr Roca issued licences as a matter of habit without any reference to the property registry.
Jellyfish hazard returns to Málaga
BY DAVE JAMIESON
EXPERTS ARE FORECASTING ANOTHER SUMMER MARKED BY PLAGUES OF JELLYFISH. LAST YEAR, DOZENS OF PEOPLE WERE STUNG AFTER CLIMATIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ENCOURAGED THE CREATURES TO SWIM CLOSER TO THE SHORE THAN USUAL, AND PREDICTIONS SUGGEST THAT THIS SEASON COULD BE WORSE.
Once again, the problem is expected to be particularly acute along the Málaga coast.
The Oceanographic Institute at Murcia says the jellyfish population is expected to be high this summer. Its director, Julio Más, explained that while high temperatures and low rainfall have allowed them reproduce without problems, there are other man-made influences at play. He said that urban and industrial waste make sea water more fertile allowing plankton to multiply and so produce more food for the jellyfish. While the process occurs in many seas, he added, it is more typical of coastal areas where water circulation is more restricted. Sr Más also said that scientists are worried about evidence which suggests that jellyfish are benefiting from high levels of fishing, which allows invertebrates to invade the areas traditionally occupied by other vertebrate marine species.
Jellyfish were recorded in swarms during late May around Algeciras, bolstering fears that they will spread along the Málaga coast in the coming weeks. Sr Más believes they should be taken as a signal of the damage man is wreaking on the sea as a result of contamination, over-fishing and excessive coastal development. He says the increasing urbanisation on the north shore of the Mediterranean, "has been very rapid and has not been accompanied by good infrastructure of sanitation, purification or water supply."
A BIT OF ADVICE
Experts warn that even jellyfish which are washed up on beaches and die can retain their toxicity for 24 hours so should not be touched. Anyone who suffers a sting should seek immediate medical assistance as reactions can be serious, especially if the victim suffers from allergies or coronary problems. First aid includes a gentle application to the wound of a plastic bottle filled with ice for at least 15 minutes. Avoid pressure which will spread the toxin further, and ensure the wound does not come into contact with sand.
Last summer, one of the largest jellyfish, found near Motril, was a 10 kilo monster, 60 centimetres in diameter and 1.5 metres in length, while swimming competitions along the coast had to be postponed because of the presence of the creatures offshore. In September, Rafael Jiménez of the Motril Centre for Fishing Development suggested culling the creatures early in the year, and the temporary installation of nylon or plastic nets, five metres deep, to keep them away at a safe distance.
Arroyo library gets bigger foreigners' section
By Oliver McIntyre
Foreign residents of Benalmádena now have an even bigger space dedicated to them at the Arroyo de la Miel library. Last week the town's Culture councillor, Natalia Brudke, officially presented the newly enlarged section, which now has areas for reading foreign-language periodicals and for using the Internet.
The Arroyo library's foreign-language section counts over 11,000 books in a wide array of languages. By far the most – 7,200 – are in English, followed by 1,380 in German, 1,245 in Finnish, 853 in French, 500 in Polish, 170 in Dutch, and 113 in Swedish. There are smaller numbers of titles in a variety of other languages.
The foreign-language books have been donated to the library over the years by members of the town's foreign-resident community, meaning "the Town Hall has had to make almost no economic investment in this section," said Sra Brudke. In addition, the foreign-language section is maintained by a team of 12 volunteers – including residents from Britain, France, Canada, Argentina, Poland, Germany, Finland, Holland and the United States – under the supervision of long-time programme coordinator Betty Watt.
The town's foreign-book programme was first launched in 1988 out of the Casa de la Cultura. In 2002 it was moved to the Arroyo library with the creation of the foreign-language section. That year, 6,070 foreign-language books were loaned out from the library. Just three years later, in 2005, that figure nearly doubled, with 11,687 foreign-language books loaned.
Councillor Brudke also announced last week that the Arroyo library is now open on Saturdays from 9.30 to 13.30 and 17.00 to 20.00.
New Picasso work for Málaga collection
BY DAVE JAMIESON
MÁLAGA TOWN HALL HAS PAID OVER 2.7 MILLION EUROS FOR A PICASSO WORK TO ADD TO THE CITY'S COLLECTION. "LES DEMOISELLES D'AVIGNON" CHANGED HANDS AT A CEREMONY IN GENEVA ATTENDED BY MAYOR FRANCISCO DE LA TORRE AND IS EXPECTED TO BE EXHIBITED LOCALLY TOWARDS THE END OF THIS YEAR.
The deal also includes a collection of 84 sketches drawn by the artist while preparing for the work. In addition to the purchase price, Málaga is paying around 7,000 euros to have the work transported in a refrigerated lorry to Picasso's birthplace museum in Plaza de la Merced.
The oil on canvas work, which was painted in June or July of 1907 and measures 244 by 233 centimetres, has come from the collection of Picasso's grand-daughter, Marina. It was kept in Picasso's own studio until 1924 when it was sold to the French modernist Jacques Doucet. 13 years later it was bought by MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York although it did not appear there until 1939.
News of the acquisition came in the same week that the King opened Europe's most spectacular summer art exhibition, arranged to mark the 125th anniversary of Picasso's birth in Málaga next October. Over a million visitors are expected to view the Madrid exhibition, "Tradition and the Avant-Garde", housed at both the Prado, where Picasso studied the Old Masters, and the nearby Reina Sofia Modern Art Museum. Around 100 of the artist's works have been brought together from all over the world, following years of negotiations with dozens of galleries for the loan of their most valuable works. The resulting insurance cover required totals over 2,000 million euros.
The exhibition, which is open to the public until September 3, showcases works which illustrate Picasso's evolution from his blue period to cubism, as well as his relationship with surrealism.
In the Prado, Picasso's works are contrasted with those of earlier masters who influenced him, such as Velazquez and Goya, while in the Reina Sofia, the focus is on Picasso's huge anti-war masterpiece, "Guernica".
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the work's return to Spain from the USA, as well as the 70th anniversary of Picasso's appointment, in absentia, as director of the Museo del Prado in Madrid by the beleaguered Republican government. "All those artists," Picasso said, "finally belonged to me." However, Picasso set foot in neither the Prado nor Spain again.
Businesses slam Ronda town hall
News Staff Reporter
The president of Ronda's association of small and medium sized businesses (Apymer), Salvador Galván, has slammed the local town hall for its indifference to small companies. He stated that the administration had not created any projects to help small business and was only supporting the Eroski commercial centre that would destroy the local trading base.
Sr. Galván claimed that the government team was not good for Ronda and it was not seeking solutions to the major problems the town faces especially relating to infrastructure. He accused the town hall of giving all its support to the Eroski project and turning a blind eye to the repercussions its opening would have on the local economy.
As an example of the negative effect that the Eroski development could have on Ronda Galván sited the case of La Cañada commercial centre in Marbella. He stated that when La Cañada was opened it signalled the closure of many businesses in the traditional shopping centre of Marbella with the loss of many jobs.
The president of Apymer also criticised the local governments lack of collaboration with its regional and national counterparts accusing it of having no access to the highest powers. With regard to the new local development plan Sr. Galván was of the opinion that what Ronda needed was better communications and a new industrial estate that Apymer believed should occupy one million square metres on the El Burgo road. As for the present town hall Sr. Galván said it was only interested in supporting the golf project at Los Merinos.
Cádiz's plentiful water reserves
Province's reservoirs have highest levels of water in Andalucía
By David Eade
COMPARED WITH THE REST OF ANDALUCÍA THE SITUATION IN THE DAMS AND RESERVOIRS OF CÁDIZ IS SUCH THAT THE PROVINCE IS ASSURED OF ITS WATER SUPPLY FOR THE NEXT TWO AND A HALF YEARS.
This applies to both the major towns and rural areas and is based on the hypothetical situation that there is no rain at all over the period till the end of 2008.
The rainfall during the first quarter of this year has deposited a large amount of water in the valley of the Guadalete as well as the reservoirs at Guadalcacín, Los Hurones, Zahara-El Gastor, Bornos and Arcos. In addition the heavy rainfall in the Guadiaro to Majaceite zone at the end of January has sent a large amount of water to Los Hurones.
Nonetheless the Andalucía water agency has stated that although the province enjoys a good supply of water it should still practice responsible use of this valuable resource.
The valley of the Guadalete and the reservoirs of Barbate and Celemín now have 760 cubic hectometres of water stored. This figure is 46.5 per cent of the volume of water held in the province's reservoirs. The capacity of the two reservoirs that principally supply the major zones of the province, the Guadalcacín and Los Hurones now have around 420 cubic hectometres in storage.
According to water authority officials the province of Cádiz uses domestically 80 cubic hectometres of water a year but the Guadalete alone far exceeds that amount. Indeed the situation in the water reserves of Cádiz is the most plentiful in Andalucía with only the Cordoba reservoir of Iznájar larger in capacity than Guadalcacín.
PUERTO SERRANO STILL HAS WATER CUTS
The residents of Puerto Serrano still face daily water cuts during the summer despite the huge reserves in the province. The municipality has been hit by poor water supply for a number of years and that situation is set to continue during this summer. Indeed the local population faces a peak holiday season with water restrictions during the night.
This situation is caused by the lack of resources from the wells that make up the town's supply. A project exists to connect Puerto Serrano with the Cerro Prieto in Zahara de la Sierra and has been described as urgent by the Andalucía water agency. It would solve the water supply problems of the municipality and has a budget of three million euros but requires the laying of a 17-kilometre pipeline.
Protests at planned ETA peace talks
BY DAVE JAMIESON
AN ESTIMATED 200,000 PROTESTORS GATHERED IN THE CENTRE OF MADRID ON SATURDAY TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR DISPLEASURE AT THE GOVERNMENT'S PLANNED PEACE TALKS WITH ETA.
The Basque separatist terrorist group called a ceasefire on March 22, and last month PM Zapatero announced that he wanted to initiate direct discussions with them. Last weekend's march was arranged by the opposition Partido Popular (PP) and by associations which represent victims of ETA attacks.
ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths during a 40 year campaign for an independent Basque homeland, but none since May 2003 when a car bomb killed two policemen in Sanguesa, 47 kilometres south-east of Pamplona.
The demonstration began by walking past the sites of attacks by ETA, as well as the scene of the 2004 train bomb attacks which killed 191, before culminating at a rally in the city centre. Francisco Jose Alcaraz, who lost a brother and two nieces in an ETA attack in 1987 and is now head of the Association of Victims of Terrorism, told the crowd that the ETA negotiators "are assassins who have killed almost a thousand people."
Also addressing protestors was Mariano Rajoy, president of the PP which ended co-operation with the government last week when the Basque branch of the PSOE said it would pursue talks with Batasuna, the banned political wing of ETA. The PP also continues to insist that ETA may have played a part in the Madrid train bombings in spite of the outcome of an investigation which blamed Islamic militants. While the party has been angered by what it considers the secretive manner in which the Government has handled contacts with ETA, the PP itself carried out secret contacts with the separatists when in power in the late 1990s.
PM DEFENDS DECISION
However PM Zapatero continues to believe that most Spanish citizens want the peace talks to go ahead. Speaking in Tarragona, he argued that after "years of suffering" it was time to end the conflict through any means necessary. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams spent three days in Spain last week, reportedly to support the ETA peace talks. Adams, whose party is understood to have played a key background role in arranging the ceasefire, was in Bilbao, Madrid and Barcelona for talks with political and business leaders. His Bilbao visit was hosted by Batasuna, while in Barcelona, his hosts were the Catalan left-wing republican party, the ERC.
Spanish court to investigate CIA flights
By David Eade
The national high court judge, Ismael Moreno, has stated that he is taking the competence for investigating the claim that secret CIA flights used Spanish airports or airspace for the transport of political prisoners.
In so doing the judge was contradicting the opinion of the State prosecutor. However he is of the opinion that the court can open an investigation in to illegal detention, kidnapping and torture when it has been condemned by a group of Spanish citizens.
In that regard in March 2005 a group in Palma de Mallorca presented a criminal complaint against these alleged crimes claiming that those accused of terrorism had been transported in flights through the airport of the Balearic capital. Sr. Moreno has taken up their case after the Palma court declined to handle it saying it was a matter for the national high court.
Up till now the Spanish government has defended itself on the basis that its own investigations had shown that no crime had been committed on Spanish territory. This contradicts a recent Council of Europe report that states more than 20 countries including Spain co-operated at different levels with the CIA in the transportation of prisoners to secret prisons and the moving of those suspected of terrorism from Asia to Guantánamo. Council of Europe investigator, Dick Marty, has claimed that the airport of Son Sant Joan was one of eight ports of call in the secret transfer of prisoners.
Spain's Minister of Justice, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, stated that the government was "absolutely calm" about the report and court investigation. At a press conference he stated the matter would have no bearing on the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero that had in any case already condemned such activity and any investigation would have governmental co-operation.
The USA has neither denied nor confirmed the accusations but it has expressed its doubts on the credibility of the report. Some European governments have denied violating the law whilst others have stayed silent.
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