Costa del Sol News - 23rd November 2006

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 23rd November - 30th November 2006



Homes slated for demolition could be pardoned if owners bought in good faith

By David Eade and Oliver McIntyre

While the most widely publicised cases are in Marbella – where there are estimated to be as many as 23,000 illegal homes – the problem extends throughout the province and beyond. Between the Costa del Sol and the Axarquía area to the east of Málaga there are as many as 40,000 illegally built homes and region-wide the figure could be as high as 100,000.
The homes – many of them in apartment blocks and residential developments – were declared illegal after authorities discovered they had been built with licences issued inappropriately by corrupt or inept planning officials. They are threatened with possible demolition, a measure that prosecutors have increasingly been pushing for even in cases where the homes are occupied. But owners who can prove they bought their homes in good faith may still have cause for optimism.

Even from within the Junta de Andalucía, which has generally taken a hard line and last week said it planned to demand the demolition of around 5,000 Marbella homes built on land classified for public use, there appears to be acknowledgement of the rights of unwitting property owners. Earlier this week the Junta’s chief of Tourism, Commerce and Sport, Paulino Plata, who is also the Socialist (PSOE) candidate for Marbella mayor at next May’s elections, acknowledged that demolition “is not the only solution.”
“It’s about complying with the law and the Junta has asked that the [demolition] sentence be carried out, but it is the judge, after reviewing all the information, who will determine if the razing of homes is appropriate,” said Sr Plata. “The decision must be just, so that it makes sense to people.”
The Andalucian Supreme Court (TSJA) has indicated that it will review the demolition orders on a case-by-case basis and will not bulldoze any buildings before allowing the affected homeowners a chance to argue their case.

Despite the possible recourse for owners, the Junta continued to push for further demolitions last week, saying it would ask the TSJA to enforce demolition orders on seven developments whose licences have been annulled. These include four of nine apartment blocks at the Playa Río Real urbanisation; six houses at Huerta Belón; a 35-apartment block in Avenida del Trapiche; 24 apartments in Cerrado de Elviria; three apartments at Banana Beach declared illegal in 1999; a home built on protected forest land at Manchones Altos; and an industrial unit at La Juanita. In addition, the regional government wants the court to include in its list a further 13 homes on forest land at Siete Colchones and an illegal office building.


Tony King blames Vázquez and Graham for Wanninkhof

NEWS Staff Reporter

The trial of Briton Tony Alexander King for the 1999 murder of Mijas teenager Rocío Wanninkhof began on Monday and is expected to last two weeks as 114 witnesses take the stand to testify.
On the first day of trial, King, who was scheduled to testify, was thrown out of court after insulting and the judge, the prosecutor and the police forensic scientists in the case, calling them all “criminals.”
The following day he was allowed back in court and testified for an hour and a half, during which he said he witnessed Dolores Vázquez and Robert Graham stab and kill Srta Wanninkhof. Sra Vázquez, the ex-girlfriend of the victim’s mother, was previously convicted for the murder but was later absolved and all charges against her were dropped. King’s friend Robert Graham was investigated following King’s arrest but faces no charges in the case.
Srta Wanninkhof disappeared on October 9, 1999, while walking along the road that runs from La Cala de Mijas to the Los Claveles and La Cortijera urbanisations. Her body was found several weeks later in the Altos del Rodeo area of Marbella.
According to the prosecutor’s case, King saw the teenager walking along the road and stopped to sexually assault her at knifepoint. She resisted and he stabbed her multiple times, later moving the body twice, the second time to the site it where it was found, says the prosecutor. King, currently serving a 36-year sentence for the murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín, plus a seven-year sentence for an attempted rape in Benalmádena, faces a further 26-year-and-nine-month sentence if found guilty for the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof, who was 19 at the time of her death.

Former Nerja councillor dies in hunting accident

Victim was also long-time maths teacher at local schools

By Dave Jamieson

José Luis Pezzi is understood to have been struck by a stray bullet while out hunting with three friends on Sunday. He was 64. One of his colleagues also received a minor leg injury in the incident, which happened in the countryside near the town of Posadas, about 30 kilometres from Córdoba.
Sr Pezzi served at Nerja town hall between 1987 and 1991 as a representative of the Alianza Popular party, and between 1995 and 2003 for the Partido Popular (PP). A police investigation in 1998 revealed that his views had made him a target of an ETA terrorist cell in Andalucía, but despite this threat, his work for the PP helped the party to win the 1999 local elections with an absolute majority for the first time.
As a popular and well-respected mathematics teacher, Sr Pezzi taught many local people at both primary and secondary level and had only recently retired from San Miguel school. He had four children of his own, three daughters and a son.

The circumstances surrounding the accidental shooting are under investigation and a 45-year-old Iranian man, resident in Spain, has been detained and questioned by the Guardia Civil. He is thought to have been in a separate group from Sr Pezzi when his rifle fired accidentally, hitting the victim in the chest, after which the man allegedly fled the area in fright.

Tributes to Sr Pezzi have been paid at local and regional levels. Nerja’s mayor, José Alberto Armijo, said he was very sad at the loss of his colleague, adding that, “José Luis and I have spent good and bad times together.” Joaquín Ramírez, the PP’s provincial president, expressed his sadness at the death of “someone who was very important” for the party.

Málaga says no to violence against women

Events will culminate in street demonstration

By Oliver McIntyre

The main event on the day itself is a demonstration march in Málaga city, beginning at 12.00 in Plaza de la Merced and winding through the main streets of the historic district. But in the days leading up to and including the weekend there are a wide variety of events and activities throughout the province, including visits to local schools, educational workshops, film screenings, public-awareness advertising, and informational campaigns.
One of the focuses of this year’s informational campaign is to raise awareness among young people. The push comes in response to concerns over an increase in abuse cases among women under the age of 21. According to the most recent statistics, this group represents eight per cent of reported abuse cases in the province. The 183 cases among under-21s reported so far this year is 55 more than the figure for last year.

From January to September of this year there were a total of 2,398 police reports filed by abuse victims in the province, a 10 per cent increase over the same period of 2005. Announcing this year’s campaign, the IAM’s coordinator, Pilar Oriente, urged victims to seek advice prior to filing charges because in many cases there is a tendency to minimise the level of abuse reported, “and later the sentences [for the offenders] are not what they should be.”

Torrox plans to raise golf cash criticised

By Dave Jamieson

Torrox town hall’s plan to sell off two plots of municipal land to help finance a new golf course (CDSN November 16-22) have been criticised by the opposition. The plan approved by nine socialist PSOE and Partido Andalucista councillors was opposed by the eight Izquierda Unida (IU), Partido Popular (PP) and independent members who say that it is unnecessary for the town hall to be investing in a private venture when there are higher priority projects outstanding which would benefit local residents. Izquierda Unida representative, Miguel Rico, added that the two plots to be sold are extremely attractive, sited next to the coastal N-340 with enviable views, while other municipal land further inland could have been disposed of instead. Sr Rico also complained that the results of studies into the Calaceite Golf project’s viability are not yet known. For the PP, Nieves Jiménez called for the matter to be postponed until after May’s election and for the new council to deal with it in the most opportune manner, although she stressed her party was not opposed to the sale in principle. Manuel Paloma for the independents described the project to sell off two of the best plots in the area as “foolish” and said it was unclear how much of the cash raised would be invested in the golf course, which he described as “a minority sport which will be given public financing,” and how much will be available to the municipality.

Massive turnout for anti-dam protest

NEWS Staff Reporter
Residents and officials in Coín, joined by their neighbours from other Guadalhorce Valley towns, made a strong statement last week against the proposed damming of the Río Grande to provide water to Málaga city. The Coín town hall, which was one of the organisers of a demonstration march on Friday evening, said the event was attended by some 15,000 people (the town’s population is about 20,000). Joining Coín’s mayor, Gabriel Clavijo, at the protest were mayors from Alhaurín el Grande, Cártama, Guaro and Alozaina, as well as councillors from nearly all the towns in the Guadalhorce region. The majority of local businesses closed for the evening in support of the protest.
The march left Plaza de la Villa at 18.00 and made its way to Plaza de la Alameda, where organisers read a manifesto against the Environment Ministry’s plan for a small reservoir at Cerro Blanco and a 38-kilometre pipeline to take water to the capital. Both the town hall and the anti-dam Río Grande Defence Committee, which is made up of residents and environmental groups and was the co-organiser of the protest, estimate the project could affect around 500 property owners. Environmentalists say the project would also be detrimental to the river’s ecology. In their manifesto, the protesters insisted there are alternative ways of ensuring Málaga’s water supply. Among those they cited were the recycling of treated wastewater, fixing the salinity problem at the Guadalhorce reservoir and increasing the output from the Casasola reservoir in Campanillas.

The 1,000 euro hotel monopolises Málaga

By Dave Jamieson

Contrary to reports last month that Málaga’s Calle Larios was the 12th most expensive Spanish street in which to rent property (CDSN, November 9-15), it is now possible to build an hotel in that thoroughfare for a mere 1,000 euros. Naturally, a developer would have to buy the street first, but that would only involve an outlay of 400 euros, although construction could not begin until neighbouring Plaza de la Constitución had also been acquired for a modest 350 euros.
While the prices are all correct, sadly they only apply when playing a new, limited edition of the board game Monopoly. Five thousand sets of the Málaga edition have hit the shops for the Christmas market, priced at 50 euros (although for just ten euros more, players could add the plaza de la Merced to their property portfolios.)
Larios and Merced are respectively the highest and lowest priced squares on the board which includes all the favourites, including the utility companies, Ve a la Carcel (Go to Jail), and a salary of 200 euros for passing Salida (Go). Local additions include the Port of Málaga and the airport for 200 euros each.
The game was invented in 1929 by Charles Darrow, an unemployed engineer, who designed the board using streets from Atlantic City where his family lived. It was bought and improved by Parker Brothers in 1935 and Waddingtons were later given a licence to manufacture the game in Britain. Since then Monopoly has appeared in 80 countries in 26 languages with estimated total sales of 160 million. The Málaga edition, which was launched last Friday by 40 local University students at a special tournament, is the sixth to feature a Spanish city. Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and Sevilla already have theirs, while two more, for Vigo and Zaragoza, will be available shortly.

Isabel Pantoja says she was victim

By David Eade

As last week’s news broke of the third wave of arrests in the Operation Malaya investigation into corruption at Marbella town hall, in which the former wife of Muñoz was also arrested, Pantoja spoke out to Antena 3 television.
Her outburst in the form of a letter was provoked by the revelation that Muñoz had made over to his former wife, Mayte Zaldívar, 400,000 euros that was held in a Swiss bank account. However, according to Pantoja, Muñoz had always insisted to her that he had no money and she had paid his and his children’s expenses during their relationship.
Following Zaldívar’s release on bail, Pantoja claimed that she had been “deceived for three years” by Muñoz. The singer is said to be shattered over the revelation that Muñoz’s former wife, who he left for Pantoja, has been receiving money from him and from a secret account that she didn’t know existed. Pantoja, who has always protested her lover’s innocence, is said to now believe that he didn’t tell her the truth. While Pantoja has described herself as a “victim” of Muñoz, her critics argue that she has gone public as she fears that she too could be hauled before the investigating judge in the ‘Malaya’ case.

Meanwhile as the Operation Malaya corruption scandal evolves it has emerged that another former mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, received 1.7 million euros in bribes in 2004 and 2005. This money was allegedly paid to her in exchange for giving the go-ahead to illegal property developments.
The money came from Marbella’s town planning advisor and alleged mastermind behind the corruption, Juan Antonio Roca who was paid by developers and constructors. It is claimed that Yagüe was not alone with several other councillors also receiving considerable sums of money in exchange for their votes.

These claims have been made public in the legal summary of the investigation to date. It shows that some councillors claimed that Yagüe gave them envelopes containing cash. This they say was their “reward” for doing their jobs well. However the amounts the councillors admit to having received from the former mayor differ in some cases from those recorded by Juan Antonio Roca raising the question as to whether Yagüe retained some of the money. Nonetheless the investigating judge has described Marisol Yagüe as a “puppet” whose strings were pulled by Juan Antonio Roca. To support this theory police transcripts show several telephone conversations between the two in which the town-planning advisor gave orders and the mayor meekly followed his instructions.

Major Mijas project to wrap up in early 2007

By Oliver McIntyre

The announcement came after the town’s mayor, Agustín Moreno, visited each of the worksites last week to check on the progress.
His first stop was La Cala, where work is underway on two projects, a remodelling of the plaza at El Torreón and comprehensive upgrades to the Boulevard. The El Torreón plaza is to become more wide-open and user-friendly with the removal of the elevated central area. It is also to get a bandstand for musical and other performances. On the Boulevard, in addition to a resurfacing of the pavements and other aesthetic improvements, changes are going to be made to create more space for pedestrians.
The mayor then travelled to Calle Río de Las Pasadas in Las Lagunas, where work is well underway on a sprucing-up project that includes new pavements, streetlamps and street furniture. The road is also to get a new roundabout giving access to Avenida Dinamarca and Calle Geranio. Elsewhere in Las Lagunas, the Pasaje de San Lorenzo is having its three distinct levels converted to a single gradual slope, and is also getting new pavements and upgraded underground utilities infrastructure.

Finally, the mayor visited what he described as “without a doubt the most important project currently underway” in the town, the restructuring of the road entry to Mijas Pueblo. It includes a widening of the ‘Variante’ bypass road where it approaches the entry point to the pueblo at the intersection of Avenida de Méjico, and the creation of a new 10-metre-wide roundabout to regulate traffic flow. The project will also improve visibility for drivers and will see the creation of additional parking spaces in the zone.

Aqueduct agreement in Nerja

NEWS Staff Reporter

An accord in principle has been reached to begin restoration work on Nerja’s Águila aqueduct. Mayor José Alberto Armijo says that last week’s meeting between the town hall, the Junta de Andalucía and the Larios company, SALSA, has agreed how the work should be financed.
Sr Armijo said that SALSA would confirm their funding by the end of November, after which the local and regional administrations would decide on their individual investments in the project which has an estimated price tag of 658,000 euros. He added he would be able to announce the start of work as soon as the financial arrangements were complete.
The aqueduct was built in 1880 by Joaquín Pértez del Pulgar and Ruiz de Molina to supply water to the Maro area for irrigation and factory use. It was acquired by Larios in November 1930 and in 1968 was declared a monument of national cultural interest. On February 28, Andalucía Day, in 2005, SALSA ceded it to Nerja for the symbolic price of one euro.Sr Armijo has recently been critical of the lack of progress made by the Junta de Andalucía in moving forward on the aqueduct’s restoration, but he in turn has been criticised by them. The Culture delegate in Sevilla, Francisco López, said the mayor had been “irresponsible” by making public last week’s agreement before it had been finalised. Sr López acknowledged that there existed an accord in principle but declined to confirm the detail.

Pilot whale and dolphin found dead off Algeciras

By David Eade

The two creatures had been covered in residue from an oil spillage and Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción believe it was this pollution that caused the deaths.
Both the large pilot whale and the dolphin had their respiratory systems clogged up by the oil and presumably died from asphyxiation. They were washed ashore by the local sea currents and although the whale was found alive, it subsequently died.
Verdemar spokesperson, Antonio Muñoz, has called on both Algeciras town hall and the regional government’s Environment Department to investigate fully the exact causes of death. He said that it appears both creatures had suffered from the fuel that boats spill in the bay while bunkering.

The death of the whale is the second in the waters off the coast of the Campo de Gibraltar in a seven-day period. Another died off La Línea and was washed up along with a turtle. Members from the Málaga rescue centre for sea creatures (CREMA) tried to save the Algeciras whale before it died. They subsequently carried out a post-mortem and found that the whale had an empty stomach indicating that it hadn’t eaten for days as well as a swollen liver. No autopsy could be carried out on the La Línea whale as it was buried by municipal workers.This brings to a total of five the number of whales that have died off the Málaga and Cádiz coast in the past month.

Sanlucar firemen celebrate

By David Eade

In Sanlúcar there was jubilation among fire brigade officers when it was announced that the council had managed to pay 1.1 million euros, which correspond to outstanding payments for this year. Mayor Laura Seco said that the remaining three million euros would be paid in the near future thanks to an agreement with the Social Security authorities.
About thirty fire officers from Sanlúcar chose an unusual form of celebration, wearing nothing but nappies as they held up banners expressing their gratitude to the local authority but also pointing out that the fire brigade is facing other problems including a lack of resources. They were supported by 150 officers from other municipalities.

Arcos council has now settled its 524,340-euro debt, and on Wednesday, as fire brigade officers demonstrated outside La Línea town hall to demand action to avoid being expelled from the Consortium, the town council announced that it had just paid 760,000 euros. The money is believed to have been revenue from local taxes. The only town still under threat of expulsion is Jerez.

Spain's XXL problem

Obesity in Spain on the rise as ministry rejects oversize burgers

By Dave Jamieson

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates that 13 per cent of Spanish adults (over 15 years old) are technically obese, defined as a body/mass index (BMI) of at least 30 kg/m2 (kilograms of weight per metre of height squared). The country with the worst record is the US where over 30 per cent fall into the obese category, while Mexico, Britain and Australia all have between 20 and 25 per cent of adults in this group.
Delegates from Spanish-speaking countries meeting at last week’s American Heart Association (AHA) conference in Chicago warned that Spain’s position is worsening. AHA President Raymond Gibbons said that at 50 years old, someone who has never smoked but is simply overweight – defined as a BMI of between 26 and 29 – increases risk of death by 20 to 40 per cent, while those classified as obese increase the risk by “at least” 100 per cent. The conference also heard from specialists at the University of California that excess weight in adolescence translates into an increased likelihood of obesity by age 35. Spain already has one of the highest child obesity rates in Europe, with 16 per cent of children under 12 considered obese.

News of Spain’s obesity time-bomb came in the same week that the country’s minister of health called on a fast-food outlet to withdraw the ad campaign for one of its products. Sra Elena Salgado called for Burger King to stop promoting the line after analysis indicated that the product fails to comply with the strategy set out by the Government for nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of obesity. The average XXL burger was found to weigh 328.9-grams and contain 971 calories which is almost half the daily requirement of an adolescent. One fifth of it was found to be fat, including an elevated content of 38.7 per cent, equivalent to 25-grams, of saturated fat. International recommendations state that saturated fats should account for no more than 10 per cent of the total fat content of food. Consumers associations voiced support for the minister and demanded strict regulation to reduce obesity amongst young people. However, Burger King rejected the calls for withdrawal of the XXL burger but indicated they were working to promote a “balanced diet” and to reduce the risk of illness through inadequate nutrition.

The fat one is back, the bald one is not

By Oliver McIntyre

The grand prize – known as ‘El Gordo’, or The Fat One – of Spain’s hugely popular Christmas Lottery will remain unchanged this year at 3,000,000 euros, lottery officials announced last week.
Indeed, the greatest change to the December 22 draw this year is that the bald British actor Clive Arrindell – famous throughout Spain for his annual appearance in the Christmas Lottery commercials – was not hired for this year’s advertising campaign. Known colloquially as ‘el calvo de la lotería’ (the bald lottery man) or ‘el calvo de la suerte’ (the good-luck bald man), Mr Arrindell played his character, a sort of mysterious and magical good-luck spirit, on the Christmas Lottery commercials from 1997 to 2005.
The other principal difference in this year’s Christmas draw is that 10 more series will be issue for each of the 85,000 available lottery numbers, meaning a total of 180 series for each number. The result is a 5.88 per cent increase in the overall value of tickets in circulation, to 3.06 billion euros.
Each series of each number, say series 111 of the number 22222, costs 200 euros, but typically this is broken down into 10 equal parts, or ‘décimos’, which cost 20 euros each. Adding up all 180 series of all 85,000 numbers, there are a total of 153,000,000 décimos for sale.
The Christmas Lottery is by far the country’s biggest draw of the year, but it spreads the winnings widely rather than having a single or very few enormous winners. While the grand prize is 3,000,000 euros for each series of the winning number, that really translates to 300,000 euros for each décimo. Since there are 180 series, and 20 décimos per series, El Gordo is actually won by as many as 3,600 décimo holders, who would receive 300,000 euros apiece. Seventy per cent of the total revenues on ticket sales go to prize payouts. In addition to the 3,000,000-euro grand prize, there is a second-place prize of 1,000,000 euros; a third-place prize of 500,000 euros; two fourth-place prizes of 200,000 euros each; and eight fifth-place prizes of 50,000 euros each. There are also hundreds of smaller prizes for partial matches.