News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 21st December - 27th December 2006
NEW YEAR TAX GIFT
Capital gains tax to be cut in half for non-residents
By Dave Jamieson
A SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN CAPITAL GAINS TAX IN SPAIN WILL BE GOOD NEWS FOR FOREIGN CITIZENS LIVING OR WORKING IN THE COUNTRY TEMPORARILY OR WHO OWN HOLIDAY HOMES HERE.
The cut follows a European court decision that the present system, under which the tax is charged at 35 per cent for non-residents but at just 18 per cent for Spanish residents, is unfair.
From January 1, all homeowners in Spain will be treated equally, with both groups charged the tax at 18 per cent. Financial experts say the cut will benefit all foreigners who purchase holiday homes, live here temporarily or work in the country for short periods and are therefore not registered as residents. However, the new tax structure will not affect over-65s who have lived in their Spanish home for three years, as they are already exempt from capital gains tax.
In addition, the five per cent retention held by the purchaser when a non-resident owner sells a house in Spain is likely to be reduced. The amount held back, which is paid to the Spanish taxman upon completion of the sale, is intended to cover any debts on the property which could be difficult to recover once the seller has left the country.
New proposals would reduce this to three per cent, with the money reimbursed by subtracting it from the capital gains tax to be paid.The good news for homeowners came as a British study estimated that the number of UK citizens who own a second home overseas will rise to two million by 2025. Over the last decade, the number has trebled from 102,000 in 1995 to 300,000. November’s report, from the accountants Grant Thornton and Lombard Street Research, says the explosion in cheap flights with no-frills airline has also helped, making it easier to visit a second home in Spain for weekends, not just longer holidays. Last Friday the president of Unicaja, Braulio Medel, said that Andalucía would see the construction of 130,000 holiday or second homes over the next three years in response to the continuing high demand.
Body found in Estepona may be missing resident
Another body found in Ojén the same day
By David Eade
THE NATIONAL POLICE IN ESTEPONA ARE INVESTIGATING THE DISCOVERY OF A WOMAN’S BODY IN THE EL VELERÍN URBANISATION AROUND NOON ON SUNDAY, TRYING TO DETERMINE IF THE CORPSE IS THAT OF A WOMAN WHO HAD GONE MISSING IN THE MUNICIPALITY.
The body, wrapped in a blanket, was discovered as rubbish and brush was cleared from a property in the urbanisation. The police believe the death occurred around six months ago, which would coincide with the disappearance of the missing woman. The body and a number of bags of sand that were used to cover it are being examined by police forensic scientists.
The same day the woman’s body was found, the remains of an unidentified man were discovered in a suitcase close to the A-355 road in Ojén. It is believed he had been dead for a number of months. The case was spotted by visitors when they stopped at a scenic viewpoint where it had been dumped.
It was around 17.00 on Sunday when the visitors approached the suitcase, which was giving off a bad smell. They immediately alerted the Guardia Civil, who ascertained that it contained human remains. It is now believed the case many have been there for some time but gone unnoticed by other visitors to the site.The body was taken to the Costa del Sol Hospital but later transferred to the Málaga cemetery where it will undergo an autopsy by officials from the Institute of Legal Medicine. The investigation is being overseen by a Marbella court.
Local British author at bookshop opening
By Dave Jamieson
Author Chris Stewart, best known for his top seller Driving Over Lemons, has been signing copies of his books at a new shop in Vélez-Málaga. Bookworld España, already well known west of Málaga, has expanded to the east coast and recently opened a new outlet in the El Ingenio commercial centre at Vélez to join its network of eight other stores on the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca. Bookworld management felt it was appropriate for the local British author – and a founding member of the band Genesis – to be present at the birth of the new venture.
Mr Stewart, who lives in the Alpujarras, has now produced three volumes about his family’s life farming in Granada, the latest of which, The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society, was published this year. Once again, he has written about the ins and outs of Spanish life, from dung beetles, frogs, dogs, trees and sheep droppings to olives, wine and the eponymous blossom, all set around El Valero, the family cortijo at the junction of the rivers Trevélez and Cádiar.The author spent two hours on Tuesday afternoon signing copies of his books and meeting his fans. Bookworld España’s national retail manager, Graham Haines, said public reaction to their new shop in Vélez-Málaga had been “remarkable.”
Anti-dam protest halts Málaga traffic
3,000 Guadalhorce Valley residents march against Río Grande project
By Oliver McIntyre
TRAFFIC IN PARTS OF MÁLAGA’S HISTORIC CENTRE GROUND TO A HALT ON SATURDAY AS AN ESTIMATED 3,000 PROTESTERS TOOK TO THE STREETS IN A DEMONSTRATION AGAINST PLANS FOR A SMALL DAM AND 38-KILOMETRE PIPELINE TO TAKE WATER FROM THE RÍO GRANDE TO MÁLAGA.
In a festive atmosphere including music, jugglers, stilt-walkers and at least one young burro, the protesters gathered in Plaza del General Torrijos shortly before noon and marched to the Palacio de Tinta, where the regional government’s water authority, Cuenca Mediterránea del Sur, has its Málaga headquarters.
At the head of the march were the mayors of Coín, Alhaurín el Grande, Cártama, Pizarra, Guaro and Tolox, as well as numerous town councillors of all political stripes from towns throughout the Guadalhorce Valley. They were joined by the leaders of the Río Grande Defence Group, which organised the march.
The local police were forced to close Paseo del Parque and Paseo de Reding to traffic for nearly two hours due to the size of the protest march. However, the event was peaceful and there were no incidents other than the effect on traffic.
The protesters want officials to completely abandon the idea of creating the small dam at Cerro Blanco to divert water to Málaga. They say the project would be an environmental disaster for the river and the Guadalhorce region, and the pipeline would directly impact 500 property owners.
PROJECT ON HOLD
The Environment Ministry has already awarded the 42 million-euro construction contract for the project, but in the face of numerous local protests it has been put on hold, with the goal of better explaining the project and building consensus. Opponents say the only acceptable solution is to completely scrap the project and seek other alternatives for guaranteeing Málaga’s water supply.
Public Works orders blanket review of licences
By David Eade
The head of the regional government’s Public Works Department, Concepción Gutiérrez, has announced that her department and the commission currently managing Marbella affairs are to review every single building licence granted in the municipality since 1991, when Jesús Gil and his GIL party first came into power.
Sra Gutiérrez said the review would help authorities in drawing up the new local development plan (PGOU), ensuring the document is ‘clean’ and allowing the municipality to embrace the future with confidence and dignity.
Esperanza Oña, who is a Partido Popular representative in the regional parliament as well as mayor of Fuengirola, has repeatedly asked the regional government to state how many properties it plans to have demolished in Marbella and what the criteria will be.
The PP is convinced that demolition will mainly affect people who bought properties in good faith without knowing that they had been built illegally. The party argues that in many cases the innocent people involved have invested all their money in the property.
Sra Gutiérrez at Public Works has said the demolition decision is up to the courts, not the regional government. She has accused the Partido Popular of spreading alarm among property owners in Marbella, and stressed that the Andalucía government is concerned about the interests of those who unwittingly bought illegal homes.Meanwhile, evidence of the depth of Marbella town hall’s financial woes continues to emerge. The management commission learned last week that the San Pedro site that was to be ceded to the regional government for a new health centre has been embargoed by BBVA bank against an outstanding debt incurred by the town hall during the GIL era. The 50,000-square-metre property was earmarked not just for the health centre but also a school, apartments and a children’s nursery. The commission is trying to negotiate a payment plan with the bank so the projects can go ahead.
A Christmas ham – by any means necessary
NEWS Staff Reporter
In Spain, where a good cured ham is one of the culinary jewels of the Christmas season, some people will resort to just about anything – including crime – to make sure they’ve got one. Police in Churriana last week arrested two adults and a minor for allegedly breaking into the municipal market and stealing a ham and other items from one of the stands. Far from an isolated case, the theft was just an example of a bigger trend of Christmas-season ham heists.
The theft of top-of-the-range Iberian hams (jamón ibérico) while they are being shipped from producers shoots up 90 per cent in the run-up to the holiday, says Juan Luis Galván of the Huelva company Consorcio de Jabugo. With 65 to 75 per cent of annual sales occurring in October, November and early December, transport companies become overloaded and have to subcontract to other shippers, he says. The lorries packed with hundreds of kilos of succulent – and extremely expensive – ‘pata negra’ (black leg) hams are a mouth-watering temptation for thieves. A single top-rate ham has a retail value of more than 300 euros.
While in normal times robberies during shipment are reported only occasionally, during the Christmas boom they are a weekly occurrence, says Sr Galván. “Fortunately, the product is always insured during shipping,” he says.The case of the alleged thieves in Churriana was a less professional ham heist than those described by Sr Galván – and more of a one-off robbery to stock one family’s Christmas larder. The three men were caught not just with the ham but also a number of strings of chorizo and some cured pork loin which, they admitted to police, they had stolen from the El Mirador delicatessen stand in the market.
Ceuta terrorist cell led by a former soldier
By Dacid Eade
SPAIN’S INVESTIGATIVE JUDGE, BALTASAR GARZÓN, WHO ORDERED THE ARREST OF THE SUSPECTED ISLAMIC TERRORISTS IN CEUTA SAYS THAT THEY WERE LED BY CHAIB ABDELAZIZ, A FORMER SOLDIER IN THE SPANISH ARMY.
He also claims that another of those arrested had great sway over local Imams. Garzón said he was influencing the Imams to radicalise their sermons to the faithful and telling youths that they should follow a radical path.
Last week, on the judge’s orders, Spanish police arrested 11 suspected Islamic terrorists during pre-drawn raids in Ceuta. The raids were the result of two years of extensive investigations by the Spanish, Moroccan and UK intelligence services. Armed officers swooped on the suspects at their homes seizing documentation and other materials although no firearms or explosives were found.
Nonetheless the Spanish interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, believed the group was preparing to attack. He told the media: “This was presumably an Islamic cell which was just developing, so it hadn’t identified targets. They had been under surveillance for some time and when we saw they were thinking about moving from fanatical talk to action we arrested them.”
RAIDS ARE PART OF ON-GOING POLICE CAMPAIGN
The raids were the latest in an on-going campaign by Spain against Islamic militants following the Madrid railway bombings in 2004, which killed 191 people. It is believed that those seized are linked to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, which was blamed for bombings in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 26 people. One of those arrested was a Moroccan national with Spanish residency whilst the others in their 20s and 30s were Spanish nationals of Moroccan descent.
AVE to Antequera inaugurated by Zapatero
By Dave Jamieson
THE FIRST HIGH-SPEED AVE TRAIN TO ARRIVE AT ANTEQUERA’S SANTA ANA STATION PULLED UP TO THE PLATFORM AT 11.54 ON SATURDAY MORNING.
The event was described as “historic” by one passenger, Spain’s president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who made the inaugural journey over the 100 kilometres of new tracks in the company of the ministers of development, culture and foreign affairs.
The AVE departed from Córdoba at 11.02 on the existing line to Sevilla, but then turned south onto the new line and arrived at Puente Genil station 21 minutes later. Here, during an 18-minute stop, the president unveiled a commemorative plaque before reboarding the train for the final run to Antequera, travelling at an average speed of 171 kilometres per hour. On the return journey to Córdoba, however, a top speed of 250 kph was recorded while trials have clocked 300 and the tracks are capable of handling trains travelling at 350 kph.
The President said the “magnificent” new station at Antequera and the arrival of the AVE service at Málaga during 2007 would make the two cities the most important railway nodes in the south of Spain.
Also participating in the celebrations was Andalucían president Manuel Chaves who commented that the region was ideal for the development of a high-speed rail link because of the number of passengers and the distances between cities. Málaga, he said, will have one of the most advanced transport systems in the world, with speed, comfort and safety. Antequera’s mayor, Ricardo Millán, said his town would become the rail centre of Andalucía which, along with the new airport expected to be operating in 2009, would attract investment to the area.Work on the new line began in the summer of 2001 when former president Aznar laid the foundation stone and by February this year, tunnelling work was complete. The final 55-kilometre stretch between Antequera and Málaga is expected to open during 2007 and until then services on the Málaga to Madrid line will be operated by Talgo trains. The five daily departures now operating have a journey time of around four hours with stops at Antequera and Córdoba. A sixth train running Monday to Saturday leaves Málaga at 7.00 arriving in the capital at 10.50. Once the final southern stretch is open, the journey time will be just two and a half hours.
New ice skating rink opens in Benalmadena
By Oliver McIntyre
OFFICIALS IN BENALMÁDENA INAUGURATED THE NEW ARROYO DE LA MIEL ICE SKATING RINK ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, JUST IN TIME FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON.
It is the first real-ice permanent skating rink in the region and is expected to attract as many as 365,000 visits in its first year.
The inauguration was presided over by the mayor, Enrique Bolín, who was joined by many town councillors, business leaders and local personalities. Included in the event was the unveiling of the Stephen Von Reiswitz sculpture, El Toro Alado (The Winged Bull), that adorns the building’s entrance.
In addition to the 640-square-metre skating rink, the complex has a gymnasium and a 25-metre indoor swimming pool scheduled for inauguration on January 2. There are also a number of commercial premises as well as a 400-space garage. Construction on the facility began in 2003 and cost 11.4 million euros.The councillor for sports, Manuel Crespo, says he expects the complex, known officially as the Club Municipal de Hielo, to draw in 2,500 new members to the town’s Sports Department, bringing it to 10,000 members. The centre’s ice skating classes are already 85 per cent full.
Controversy over Mijas school nativity scene
NEWS Staff Reporter
What may have at first seemed a trivial dispute over classroom activities at a Mijas school last week turned into a pitched battle over religion and the separation of church and state, with regional government politicians weighing in on the debate.
The incident surrounded a nativity scene that some students at the Las Lagunas secondary school made during their Religion class. According to the Association of Religion Teachers (Aprece), the principal of the school saw the students working on the project and made no comment or protest. However, when the Religion teacher came into classroom the following day she found the nativity scene had disappeared. She went in search of it and found it dismantled and stuffed into rubbish bags, with some of the pieces damaged. Aprece says the principal argued that such activities were not permitted under the rules of the regional government’s Education Department.
The Education Department’s representative in Málaga, José Nieto, denied the existence of any such rule but said the principal’s actions were justified. While the construction of the nativity scene was a legitimate activity as part of the Religion class, it should not have been left on display in a common area of the school such as the classroom, he said. However, the regional president of the right-wing Partido Popular, Javier Arenas, publicly criticised the principal’s action as discriminatory and disrespectful and called on the Junta de Andalucía to open disciplinary proceedings against her. Meanwhile, the Catholic Federation of Parents’ Associations called on Education officials to fire the principal, though the Education Department has indicated it sees no reason for doing so.
Maro to have futuristic footbridge to the caves
By Dave Jamieson
By this time next year, residents in the old village of Maro should once again have a footpath link with the famous caves complex. Since the construction of the coastal motorway, Maro has effectively been cut in two, with the newer development and the caves to the north and the older area and beach to the south of the motorway. Previously, a lane known as the Caminillo Viejo was used for pedestrian access between the two, but presently, the only and longer way round is to follow the local road under the autovía.
However, the Ministry of Development has now given the go-ahead for the construction of a futuristic footbridge across the motorway at a cost of 1.2 million euros. It will consist of a single tower, 40 metres high, constructed between the motorway and the old N-340 coast road. From this, cables will stretch down to support the 65-metre long walkway which will link the site of the future botanical gardens, which is to be built beside the caves complex, with the old village. The design is described as simple, modern and avant-garde while the tower is expected to become a reference point for those making their way to visit the caves. Work is to be licensed before the end of January and construction will take nine months. Maro’s mayor, Antonio Gallardo, said that not only would it benefit the residents of Maro who work around the caves, but it was likely to bring visitors from the complex into the old part of the village.
Cádiz residents up in arms over botellón
By David Eade
RESIDENTS OF SAN FRANCISCO AND THE PLAZA DE MINA ARE ANGRY THAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE STILL HOLDING THE ‘BOTELLONES’ - LATE NIGHT OPEN-AIR DRINKING PARTIES - IN THEIR AREA, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THIS IS NOW ILLEGAL.
They say they cannot understand why the council allowed them a two-week period of grace before enforcing the new law, which came into operation at the beginning of the month.
Over recent weekends some 5,000 young people congregated in this area in the early hours of Sunday morning. Vandals set fire to the ground floor of a property by breaking the window and throwing burning paper inside. Local people claim that if they try to stop the youths causing damage to public property, they are insulted and stones are sometimes thrown at them, and many of them are afraid to leave their homes in the evenings.
After years of suffering from the effects of noise and vandalism on weekend nights then finding the area littered with rubbish the following mornings, they have had enough. They are demanding that the council insist that the youngsters move to the Punta de San Felipe, where an official area has been set up for the ‘botellón’ to take place. The new regulations ban the consumption of alcohol in the street unless it is in a specially designated area. The residents want the council to be strict in enforcing the law, whether or not those responsible claim they didn’t know that the botellón is now prohibited in residential areas.
Thousands stranded as Air Madrid grounded
Airline blames government for company’s collapse
By Dave Jamieson
THOUSANDS OF AIR PASSENGERS IN SPAIN AND ABROAD WERE STRANDED LAST WEEKEND AFTER AIR MADRID ANNOUNCED IT WAS IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDING OPERATIONS.
The Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) immediately withdrew the airline’s licence to fly, accusing it of “absolutely irresponsible and unilateral behaviour,” but the company placed the blame on the government.
The DGAC said Air Madrid’s latest proposals did not go far enough to resolve its problems of repeated flight delays, adding that the airline also had security problems. Air Madrid had promised to cut its flights by 20 per cent, scrap some routes and offer discounts to delayed passengers. Last month, when one of the company’s flights from Madrid to Buenos Aires suffered a 24-hour delay, police were called in to intervene when passengers staged a protest at the terminal.
The two-year old company has not claimed bankruptcy our announced it is going out of business, but neither has it stated when flights will resume. It blamed a serious drop in ticket sales following a government announcement last week which threatened suspending its operations, claiming that, “the Ministry of Development has managed to completely destroy Air Madrid’s commercial image and has placed our company in a very serious crisis which prevents us from carrying on our work.”
The privately-owned business, which mainly flies between Spain and Latin America, did not confirm how many passengers were affected by its move, but industry observers estimated as many as 300,000 ticket holders could be involved.
The Development Ministry established emergency return-leg flights for some Air Madrid passengers stranded at their outbound destinations and found alternative flights for others. However, it also said that those due to fly after midnight tonight, December 21, should approach Air Madrid for a refund or for a flight with another airline. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set aside the money from Air Madrid tickets purchased through travel agencies in November and December and set up an account to provide refunds to the affected customers. The money could be made available within a week or so. Those who bought their tickets directly from Air Madrid must seek a refund from the company, though those who made the purchase with a credit card are advised to ask the bank to cancel the charge.
Fathers to get 15-day paternity leave
By Oliver McIntyre
Men in Spain are to be granted 15 days of paternity leave following the birth of a child, and over the next eight years the length of the leave will gradually be extended to 30 days.
The paternity leave for men is independent of the 16-week maternity leave already provided to mothers. Fathers currently get just two days of paternity leave, although after the mother’s first six weeks of leave directly following the birth, she can transfer to the father up to 10 weeks of her remaining leave if she so chooses.
The new 15-day paid leave for new fathers is one of a number of measures included in the new Gender Equality Law, which was approved by the parliamentary Work and Social Issues Commission last week and is expected to be approved by Congress before the Christmas recess.
The law also includes a post-birth subsidy of around 700 euros for women under 21 who are active on the Social Security rolls, even if they have never made Social Security contributions through employment. The same subsidy will be available for women aged 21 to 26, but only if they have been employed for at least 90 days during the seven years prior to the birth or for 180 days during their entire employment history.
Self-employed women will be exempted from making Social Security contributions during their 16 weeks of maternity leave.
In addition to the paternity and maternity measures, the law establishes minimum ratios for the representation of women in government and on the boards of directors of large companies. It requires that women make up at least 40 per cent of the names on each party’s candidate list at all elections, from municipal to national. Towns with populations of less than 5,000 will be exempt from the rule, but beginning in 2011 the exemption will apply only to towns with populations under 3,000. Large companies will have eight years to ensure that at least 40 per cent of the seats on their boards of directors are occupied by women. Currently woman account for less than five per cent of board members at the country’s biggest companies.