Costa del Sol News - 22nd June 2006

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 22nd - 29th June 2006

Tony King gets seven years for attempted rape
By Oliver McIntyre

Briton Tony Alexander King, currently serving a 36-year sentence for the murder of Coín teenager Sonia Carabantes, has been sentenced to an additional seven years after being convicted of an attempted rape that occurred in Benalmádena in 2001.
In its ruling, the provincial court highlighted the "brutality" King's attack on the victim, who was accosted at around 3.00 as she approached her car when leaving the beach near Puerto Marina, where she had been enjoying the 'Noche de San Juan' bonfires and festivities. The court heard how King attacked her from behind and shoved her inside the car, hitting her in the head and attempting to tear her clothes. She struggled, screamed for help and kicked at King until he finally ran off.
The victim, Carmen N.M., reported the attack at the time but no suspects were identified. In September of 2003, when King was arrested in connection with the Coín killing and the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof, the woman recognised him on television as her attacker. She later picked him out of a police line-up.

Meanwhile, last week the judge in charge of the Rocío Wanninkhof murder case, which has yet to go to trial, ruled against the admission of around a dozen additional witnesses, including Dolores Vázquez. The inclusion of the witnesses had been requested by Tony Alexander King's defence team and the victim's family, and opposed by the prosecutor, who argued it would serve only to confuse the case. Sra Vázquez, a former girlfriend of the victim's mother, was originally found guilty for the murder, but the trial was overturned. After King's arrest, all charges against her were dropped.

October date for San Pedro tunnel

By David Eade

After a wait of over 15 years the start of the project to build a tunnel on the A-7 (old N-340) as it passes through the notorious San Pedro de Alcántara bottleneck is about to begin. The plans were presented this week in Marbella by the Minister of Public Works, Magdalena Álvarez, before a large audience of local people.
Much of the plans had already been revealed but the minister did make two points clear. The first was that the cost of expropriating the land required for the underpass would now not fall on the municipality as initially stated but would be met by the central government. Indeed given the economic and financial crisis faced by the town hall there was no way the project could proceed if the land compensation had to be funded locally. Secondly whilst the construction work was in progress traffic would be diverted around San Pedro via the southern by-pass through Nueva Alcántara.
Sra Álvarez told the audience that "co-operation between the administrations is fundamental" in getting the underpass built. In addition she acknowledged that local people "cannot wait any longer and that the completion of the tunnel is important for safety, the traffic and quality of life."
All the official paperwork has now been completed and as a result in October of this year all the land is due to be expropriated and the first machines will start work. The timetable is for the project to be completed in 23 months so the tunnel should be operational in September 2008 to carry the 75,000 vehicles that drive through San Pedro each day.
The key to the scheme is the tunnel through San Pedro that will be a kilometre long. Two of the present three intersections will remain at El Ingenio and the Avenida Marqués del Duero but the Ronda crossroads will be replaced with a viaduct. There will be new access and service roads and the existing bus stops will be reorganised with pedestrian bridges to ensure safe crossing plus a new roundabout to distribute the traffic at Guadalmina.


Málaga hotel strike off after pay deal

News Staff Reporter

The strike by hotel workers in Málaga has been called off. The stoppage, which threatened to cripple the sector on 14 days during the next three months, was abandoned after the successful outcome of last week's talks which produced an agreement on wages and conditions which will apply for the next four years.
The four hour meeting between employers and workers was brokered by the regional labour disputes resolution service, Sercia, and established an annual wage rise one point above the official inflation rate. Other improvements in working conditions were agreed, including the reduction of the annual working year from 1,826 to 1,800 hours and the increase in maternity leave from nine months to one year.

'We want the best lawyer we can afford'

Family to 'seek justice' over accidental Guardia Civil shooting death

By David Eade

There were highly emotional scenes in Estepona as 21-year-old Miguel Clavijo Escarena's funeral was held at Los Remedios parish church followed by his interment at the town's cemetery. It is estimated that 5,000 local people took part and as Miguel's coffin was carried from the church his mother declared that the family planned to hire the best lawyer they could afford to seek justice for her son.
The tragic accident occurred last Tuesday at 15.00 just metres from the entrance to Estación de Jimena at km 23 on the A-405 when a Guardia Civil officer fired a shot that hit the victim in the head, killing him instantly.
Guardia Civil officials say that the officer was part of a team involved in an anti-drugs operation with Guardia Civil from La Línea who were waiting for a specific vehicle to pass. The officer for some reason handled his service pistol and as a result it accidentally went off, according to the official account of events.
Miguel Clavijo Escarena was one of three people in the cab of a white van that was passing the hidden drugs control when the bullet entered the right window. The vehicle was driven by the youth's cousin and all three worked for a family well-drilling company. The family has denied that there was a police checkpoint on the road, and none was in evidence when Costa del Sol News was at the scene minutes after the shooting and before the first Guardia Civil patrol arrived in response to an emergency call.

The shooting is currently under investigation. The Guardia Civil officer, who remains free, appeared in court on Monday and was before the judge for about an hour. His lawyer had been quick to deny allegations that the tragedy occurred after the officer had drawn his gun during an argument with a fellow officer. It is expected that he will face manslaughter charges and a statement could be issued this week. In addition, the Guardia Civil is conducting its own investigation of events.
The Guardia Civil who shot Miguel is himself from Estepona and has begged the forgiveness of the family. He is in a state of shock and under sedation. He is aged 32, married with two children and is said to be very well known in Jimena, where he has been stationed for around four years.

Benalmádena to protect against home robberies

By Oliver McIntyre

Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín met last week with the presidents of around 20 homeowners' associations to address community fears generated by recent waves of violent home robberies in Cataluña and Alicante. The mayor, joined by local police Chief Lázaro Bañasco and a representative from the Judicial Police, promised that steps were being taken to prevent such home robberies from occurring in Benalmádena.
Although insisting that matters of public safety are really the jurisdiction of the national law-enforcement forces (the National Police and Guardia Civil), the mayor stated that he had "ordered the local police to take preventive measures against robberies in the urbanisations." Such measures include increased patrolling in residential zones and running ID checks on suspicious-looking strangers, he said.
Meanwhile, police Chief Bañasco called for calm, pointing out that "so far this year there has been none of this type of crime recorded in Benalmádena." However, making reference to recent police busts of violent home-robbery gangs in other parts of the country, he acknowledged that "we need to be well prepared, as the gangs that operate in Spain move on [to other areas] when police pressure increases in the zone where they have been operating."
Mayor Bolín said he found the meeting very helpful and is looking at the possibility of holding similar sessions with representatives from other homeowners' associations. He also used the occasion to reiterate his request that a National Police headquarters be established in Benalmádena, a demand he says he has been making to the central government for the last eight years and that is justified based on the town's population and visitation figures.
Meanwhile, police officials announced last week that the three Italian men arrested in the act of robbing a bank in Benalmádena (CDSN, June 15 – 21) are charged with a total of at least eight robberies of banks and travel agencies since late last year.

Britons arrested in Benalmádena


The group faces charges ranging from automobile theft and documentation falsification to drug trafficking and illegal possession of arms.
In the gang's van, seized outside one of two homes that were searched in the police operation, officers found seven pistols, four silencers, two tear-gas grenades, two cans of gunpowder and a variety of ammunition, said officials. In one of the homes they seized two marijuana plants and two bags of the drug, plus paraphernalia such as shrink-wrap plastic baggies typically used to package small quantities of drugs for sale.

At least two of those arrested have prior records for drug offences, according to the police. One of them, identified as Briton S.J.P., 29, was allegedly involved in sizeable hashish shipments seized by police in 2001 and 2004. The first was a 700-kilo load intercepted in Utrera, Sevilla, and the second a 1,100-kilo shipment seized in Málaga in 2004.
Police arrested S.J.P. and his female companion, Z.O., 27, also British, while the two were driving in a luxury car with British plates, which was later found to have been stolen in the UK.
The other two arrested were Briton C.P.G.C., 30, and Irishman W.J.P.C., 26.
Police say the investigation remains open and further arrests are possible if connections can be established between the group and other criminal gangs.

Nerja market saga nears a conclusion


The Town Council has approved a 500,000 euro, six-month project to ready an area at Almijara, north of the town centre, for the Tuesday morning event, and foresees the 11,600 metre site being a multi-purpose zone with all facilities including toilets and parking.
The news will be welcomed by residents in the town centre streets presently filled with market stalls every Tuesday. They say that on such days ambulances and taxis cannot reach their homes while private vehicles remained trapped in underground car parks; parents of children at a school located on the market's edge complain that collecting them on Tuesdays becomes "an odyssey" and frequently involves parking illegally, and businesses in the area say they cannot get delivery vans near their premises. The emergency services have also warned of the dangers of inhibiting access.
The planned move has, however, been less popular with market traders who fear that relocating to a site which is well outside the town centre will diminish trade as many local people will not take the ten minute bus ride to get there.

The anticipated move has been an on-off affair for nearly three years. The new site was announced in December 2003 with a move promised five months later. It immediately proved controversial with Almijara residents who wrote to the Town Hall and other bodies complaining about the choice, and suggesting the El Playazo area or the old Larios sugar factory site as alternatives.
The debate raged on throughout 2004, and then in January last year, the Town Hall announced the market would share a site with the annual fair near the Enrique López Cuenca sports stadium. Nothing came of that plan and all went very quiet.
Then last August the councillor responsible, José Miguel Jimena, said that Almijara was back in favour again, and that the move would happen in four months. Next month, traders went on strike in protest at the plans and lobbied the Town Hall. Their representatives claimed that the "chaos" experienced by town centre residents resulted from 320 stalls being squeezed into space allocated for just 200, the extra 120 being operated illegally, without a licence from the Town Hall.
Until last week, little more was heard from the Town Hall on the subject but with the contract for the work now awarded to Ecur Constructora, it seems that Nerja's market may be in its new home in time for Christmas. But, say cynical residents, which Christmas … ?

Closure of European footpath

By David Eade

The mayor of Ronda, Antonio Marín, has given the management of the Club de campo y golf de Ronda S.L. ten days to re-open the footpath that is said to have been illegally cut between Alcalá del Valle and Burgos. Marín stressed that unless the company complied within the stated time then the town hall would re-open the footpath, which is owned by the municipality.
The mayor quickly reacted to protests from the action group that is defending the public footpaths through the Serranía de Ronda that voiced its anger at the closing of right of way at Merinos Norte. Controversially there are plans to build two golf courses, over 700 dwellings and a luxury hotel in the area although this scheme has been opposed by local residents because of fears that it will drain their water supplies.
The footpath in question runs from Alcalá del Valle via Setenil in Cádiz province to El Burgo in Málaga and forms part of route GR-7 a link in the network that joins Spain with a large part of Europe. The action group had blamed the town hall and claimed that its action was illegal and without precedent in the region.
Before the mayor made his statement the Ronda councillor for the environment, Isabel María Barrigam had stated that the town hall would study the complaint and work to re-open the footpath. It is understood that apart from the action committee's angry blast legal complaints about the closing of the footpath had also been made by the Silvema ecologist association, the Green Patrol and the local police.

Andalucía at risk of becoming a desert

By David Eade

Data shows that 22.3 per cent of the land of the region is at high or very high risk of suffering desertification although the regional government says the figure is only 15 per cent.
Numerous organisations and institutions have voiced their fears ahead of the world day in the fight against desertification and drought that was celebrated internationally on Saturday. Apart from Andalucía the areas of Murcia, Valencia and the Canary Islands are also under threat.
The national and regional governments agree that in Andalucía the provinces of Málaga, Granada and Almería are the worst affected as is the Guadalquivir valley. The regional government's environment ministry has modified the 'Plan Andaluz against desertification' to adapt to the new norms laid down by the EU to aid agriculture. The national ministry of the environment has announced an investment of 20 million euros spread over three years in Andalucía to attempt to put a break on desertification.
The difference in the percentages in danger of desertification accepted by the national and regional governments comes about in the ways each creates its figures. However Andalucía does not factor in forest fires that can have a devastating effect on the land nor those of construction especially on coastal regions that have been deemed 'ecocatastrofistas'.

Juan Puigdefábrega of the experimental station of dry zones run by the CSIC in Almería has identified distinct causes of drought in Andalucía. He is of the opinion that loses of land are due to new agricultural exploitation, the abandoning of the traditional cultivating methods in the mountain zones and increased urbanisation.
Sr. Puigdefábrega stated: "Andalucía lives in a process of active desertification and in many cases we do not see the effects." Whilst Julio Varea of Greenpeace observed that an effective tool in putting a break on desertification was the sustainable use of water.

Outdoor jazz for July in Almuñécar

By Dave Jamieson

Almuñécar will once again resound to some the world's best jazz artistes next month when the 19th annual outdoor music festival gets under way.
As usual, concerts will be given in the Parque El Majuelo each evening at 22.30h. beginning on Friday July 14 with a visit from the Chucho Valdés Quartet. The Cuban pianist is revered as a national treasure in his home country and has earned an international reputation as an imaginative composer, improviser and bandleader.
On Saturday 15, it will be the turn of the Pee Wee Ellis Assembly. Saxophonist Ellis created the dynamic arrangements and rhythms on James Brown's soul hits of the 60s, as well as co-writing some of them, and has served as musical director for Van Morrison on several tours and studio recordings. Oregon, some of whom have been performing together for an outstanding 35 years, will perform on Sunday 16, while the following night, the Bill Frisell Quintet will take the stage. Guitarist and composer Frisell hails from Maryland and last year won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
Tuesday 18 is given to Bill Bruford's Earthworks, a band considered to be one of the UK's best jazz exports. Bruford was formerly drummer with Yes and King Crimson and made his mark with the use of electronic drums and melodic drumming. Stacey Kent, presenter of jazz programmes BBC Radio 3, is now one of the world's foremost female jazz vocalists with five best selling albums to her credit. Clint Eastwood asked her to sing at his 70th birthday party, and on Wednesday 19, she will be singing in Almuñécar.
The Chano Domínguez New Flamenco Sound star on Thursday 20, led by Chano from Cádiz who replaces the guitar with the piano in his unusual approach to flamenco. Another Andalucían, pianist Jesús Hernández, appears with No Fear Music on Friday 21, guitarist and singer-songwriter Terry Callier stars on Saturday 22, and the final night, Sunday 23, is given to an appearance by the Rosa Passos Quintet. Rosa has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and Carmen McRae, and will be including tracks from her recent album, a tribute to the legendary João Gilberto, which includes favourites such as "Besame Mucho" and "S'Wonderful".
Tickets are ten euros per concert, or book a seat on all ten nights for just 60 euros and get a free Terry Callier CD as well.

Cocaine smugglers target Cádiz

By David Eade

According to official figures more than 841 kilos of the 1.4 tonnes of cocaine seized in the region was intercepted in Cádiz, which is around 59 per cent of the total.
There were also large seizures of hashish in the province although a lesser percentage than of cocaine. Nonetheless officers confiscated more than 120 tonnes of hashish compared with 383.7 tonnes in Andalucía accounting for 31.32 per cent of the total.
In the first quarter of this year Cádiz has remained the top target for cocaine smugglers with the largest seizures being recorded in the province. However both the National Police and the Guardia Civil have intercepted more hashish in Almería, Granada and Huelva than in Cádiz.
The data given by the Ministry of the Interior in a reply to IU Deputy, Isaura Navarro Casillas, shows that drug traffickers prefer to smuggle their wares in to Europe via Andalucía. Naturally Cádiz that is just 14 kilometres from Morocco is a favourite destination.
The SIVE electronic surveillance system currently operates from the Cádiz coast up to that of Granada and shortly will be extended to include Almería. This network has been very useful in the identification of vessels crossing the Straits and in the coastal waters that are carrying drugs. However the 2005 figures suggest that there is little difference between the quantities of hashish seized in Cádiz where SIVE does operate and Almería where it doesn't, being 120 tonnes and 109 tonnes.
Another cocaine seizure
As the above figures were being release a yacht, 'Ocean Wind', was bordered 360 miles off the coast of Cádiz in an operation co-ordinated between the Spanish customs and National Police drugs squad. The vessel had sailed from the Caribbean and was found to be carrying 3,000 kilos of cocaine plus a crew of four, three Bulgarians and a Turk who were arrested.
The 'Ocean Wind' was towed to Cádiz and is currently moored in the port under police arrest. According to the government's sub-delegate in Cádiz, Sebastián Sauceda, the yacht flies the USA flag and is understood to have used the Dutch port of Amsterdam as its base.

New driving penalties point the way

Driving licence points system goes into operation next Saturday, July 1.


Everyone starts with 12 points, except for those who have been driving for fewer than three years; they begin with eight points and will have the extra four added on completion of this period. The number of points deducted depends on the gravity of the offence, but it appears that minor misdemeanours may attract differing penalties, depending on where the driver is charged.
The most serious offences, which will see six points wiped off a licence, include testing positive for alcohol or drugs, dangerous driving, racing on the public road and driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Four points will be lost by drivers who cannot produce their licence or car papers, who go through red lights or stop signs, who exceed the speed limit by more than 50 per cent, or who disobey a police officer. Using a mobile phone while driving will cost three points, as will driving without a seat belt fastened or riding a motor cycle without wearing a safety helmet. In addition to losing points for these and other offences, convicted drivers will have to pay a fine of up to 300 euros for a "serious" offence and up to 600 euros for a "very serious" offence.
A maximum of eight points can be lost on any one day, although the points will not be deducted until the penalty is confirmed, after which the driver has one month to appeal. If no appeal is received or if it fails, the penalty is applied. Points lost can be regained by attending a 12 hour re-education course on completion of which four points will be restored, although this will only be permitted once in two years. Well-behaved drivers will have the full 12 points restored after a clean two year period, or three years in the case of a "very serious" offence.

Drivers who lose all their points and consequently their driving licence must wait six months before making a move to get another. Then a re-education course must be taken after which they must pass a Tráfico theory test; eight points will be applied to the new licence of successful candidates. There are seven driving schools in Málaga where such courses will be run – two in Málaga and one each in Antequera, Estepona, Marbella, Ronda and Vélez-Málaga – with charges, payable by the offender, of between 170 and 320 euros.
Tráfico estimates that 6,000 drivers will lose all the points on their licence each year, although the European Drivers Association believes that the figure will be five times that. The Association is also concerned that Town Halls will not apply the new regulations evenly with local police forces imposing different penalties for the same offence. As an example, they say that stopping a vehicle in a bus-only lane – for which 1,446 people were fined in Málaga city last year - may be considered a misdemeanour with a penalty of two points in one town but regarded as a minor offence with no penalty in another.
Town Halls have been asked to collaborate with Tráfico in making the new system a success. The Government's sub-delegate in Málaga, Hilario López Luna, last week called for their co-operation to "substantially reduce" driving offences in urban areas. The provincial head of Tráfico, José Vico, added that last year, 900 deaths were recorded on roads within towns and cities. He said that local police officers were being fully briefed on the new regulations through Town Halls so that they would apply the new regulations in the same manner as Guardia Civil patrols on inter-urban roads.

In an interesting twist, it appears that many Britons and other foreign residents may at least partially escape Spain's new points system. Because citizens of EU member states are allowed to use their home-country driver's licence, many have not converted their licence to a Spanish one, meaning they are not entered in the Spanish Register of Drivers and Traffic Offenders. Only those in the register can have points removed from their licence.
However, EU law does allow the state to register a foreign EU citizen's licence data once the person has committed a first infraction in the host country, in this case Spain. Thus, subsequent infractions in Spain would result in points being removed from the driver's licence, but of course the licence would be unaffected back in the person's home country.

Beach bars to move

News Staff Reporter

Many beach bars and restaurants along the coast of Málaga will have to be re-sited within a year if the Costas department gets its way. The project has become a priority for the Ministry of the Environment which wants to stop what it calls excessive occupation of the beaches.
Around 150 such establishments in the province are thought to be affected by the initiative. The head of Costas in Málaga, Juan Carlos Fernández Rañada, says his department has been talking to Town Halls and the businesses themselves since late last year with a view to finding new sites for them, a process which will continue into 2007.
He cites the case of Vélez-Málaga as one of the most significant because of its 17 chiringuitos which have to be moved. Financial support comes from his department to help with demolition, or in the case of wooden structures, to hire a crane to move the whole building. The process, he added, is almost complete and Vélez Town Hall will soon be advertising the concessions for the new bars.
In Estepona, 27 of the 30 beach restaurants have already been moved but in towns such as Marbella, which has 74 bars and restaurants on its sands, Sr Fernández said finding space for them is a major problem.
Since March 2004, 14 such establishments have been demolished in Málaga for being illegally built on public land. Amongst these was the notable removal of the chiringuito "El Caballito de Mar" on Nerja's El Salón beach.

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