News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 18th January - 24th January 2007
WARNING TO DRIVERS
Guardia Civil slowdown sees officers issuing warnings instead of tickets
By Oliver McIntyre
DRIVERS WHO HAVE BEEN PULLED OVER IN ANDALUCÍA IN RECENT WEEKS MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED A PLEASANT SURPRISE, RECEIVING JUST A WARNING RATHER THAN A CITATION FOR THEIR TRAFFIC INFRACTION.
As part of a work slowdown in protest over pay issues, 80 per cent of the region’s 2,600 Guardia Civil traffic officers are refusing to write tickets, according to AUGC, the Guardia Civil union.
While no official figures were available, the union’s director of institutional relations, Manuel Jesús Lorente, last week offered a few examples of the reduction in tickets since the slowdown began on January 1. In the city of Cádiz, “they have fined five drivers when the norm is 500 tickets a month,” he reported. Elsewhere the situation was similar. In Peñaroya, Córdoba, “30 tickets have been issued in 10 days compared to the 700 per month normally issued,” while in Algeciras there were “20 fines compared to a usual 700 per month.”
SERIOUS OFFENCES TICKETED
Sr Lorente hastened to point out that the officers are still writing tickets for serious infractions. But for minor or “not so serious” offences, they are issuing warnings rather than citations.
The action – or inaction – by Guardia traffic officers is in response to what they consider an unjust distribution of productivity incentive payments. Union officials say the system unfairly favours those in bureaucratic and leadership positions over rank and file officers. The AUGC’s secretary general in Andalucía, Jesús Jiménez, cites a case where “a driver for a high official was given a 2,000-euro [productivity incentive] payment compared to the 80 euros received by a motorcycle officer.”
Sr Jiménez said that 1,800 of Andalucía’s 12,000 Guardia Civil officers will participate in a January 20 protest in Madrid over the Socialist (PSOE) government’s “falsehoods” and “broken campaign promises” to the Guardia Civil.
Local vet's funeral suspended
Victim was shot in the back as he left work
By Dave Jamieson
A JUDGE IN ALMERÍA LAST WEEK ORDERED THE SUSPENSION OF A CREMATION FOLLOWING POLICE INTERVENTION.
The family of the murdered vet were advised of the court order five hours before the ceremony at Nijar.
The 43-year-old man died after being shot on the evening of January 9 as he closed his clinic in Huércal de Almería where he had worked for 15 years. He was hit in the back of the neck as he locked the doors of number three Calle Almanzora. Guardia Civil officers immediately ruled out robbery as a motive for the attack because the victim, who was married with no children, was found to be carrying a bag containing the day’s takings from the practice. When it was discovered that he had been involved in a road traffic accident three years ago in which a youngster died, suggestions of a “settling of accounts” were raised. The boy who died is reported to have been of gypsy ethnicity and was hit by the vet’s car while riding a bicycle in the town of Pechina.
GUARDIA CIVIL NEED BODY
The Guardia Civil asked for the postponement of the funeral to allow them to continue certain lines of enquiry in connection with the case, but the cancellation came too late to stop family, friends and colleagues from arriving at the crematorium where they were greeted with the news.On Saturday, around 100 people assembled outside the Veterinary College in Almería where a two-minute silence was held in memory of the dead man and to demonstrate their “revulsion” at the loss of a “magnificent professional, good companion and fine person.”
Pantoja cash may have belonged to Muñoz
By David Eade
The judge in the Malaya case in Marbella has returned to Isabel Pantoja more than 50,000 dollars that was seized during a search of her home. However, the anticorruption prosecutor has insisted that another 9,500 euros found during the search be held, as he believes it belonged to Sra Pantoja’s lover, former Marbella mayor Julián Muñoz. The information was revealed as the judge investigating the case, Miguel Ángel Torres, lifted the veil of secrecy on more than 2,250 case files.
The cash was returned to Sra Pantoja because it was money she received through her profession as a singer and hence was not involved with the case. In contrast, the prosecutor opposed the return of the 9,500 euros, which Sra Pantoja claimed was cash she kept on hand for daily expenses, as there was no paperwork to show who owned it or its origin.The police found both sums of money in cash when they searched Isabel Pantoja’s Marbella home, which she shared with Julián Muñoz at the time of his arrest on July 19. This was during the second phase of the Malaya investigation and officers inspected the house in the urbanisation Lapera for over three hours. The cash was found in a bag belonging to the singer, which was locked in a deposit box.
Prostitute-mugger team arrested in Vélez
NEWS Staff Reporter
A man and woman have been arrested in Vélez-Málaga for allegedly mugging men who contracted the woman’s services as a prostitute. The arrests came after police reports were filed by two victims, one of them a German man and the other a Briton who suffered severe injuries when he was attacked.
Police say the 25-year-old prostitute, María del Carmen S.D., would get into her client’s car and have him drive to a nearby deserted area. There, her 34-year-old accomplice, Francisco José A.A., would suddenly appear to attack and rob the victim.
The British man suffered several knife wounds and a severe beating that left him with a ruptured right testicle, according to police. He was treated at the emergency room of the Axarquía hospital. Both members of the alleged prostitute-mugger team have prior police records. The woman has been arrested on three previous occasions for robbery offences and the man has six prior arrests, including for violent robbery and causing bodily injury.
Family fights for further investigation
NEWS Staff Reporter
The family of Tony King victim Rocío Wanninkhof this week asked the provincial court to open an investigation into a bag of items left on her mother’s front porch in September of last year, and its link to a previous bag left in similar circumstances in August 2005. The request, presented Monday, came on appeal against a Fuengirola court’s ruling that the bag not be investigated.
The public prosecutor argued against the investigation of the bag, which contained a small black knapsack, some hairs and 383 coins representing a total of 348 euros, some of them stained with blood. He said there was “not a single argument” linking the bag and its contents to the 1999 murder of Srta Wanninkhof, particularly given the fact that euro coins, which went into circulation in 2002, didn’t exist at the time of the crime. The family, who after King’s conviction of the murder insisted they would fight for an investigation to seek the third parties the jury said may have been involved in the crime, wants the bag and its contents analysed alongside those of the earlier bag. That one, which included blood-stained underwear that the family says belonged to Srta Wanninkhof, was not allowed as evidence in the King trial because Guardia Civil investigators found it offered no significant information pertinent to the case.
170 people flee Guadiaro fire
Twenty victims treated for smoke inhalation
By David Eade
AROUND 170 PEOPLE FLED FOR THEIR LIVES IN THE EARLY HOURS OF FRIDAY MORNING WHEN A GARAGE FIRE BROKE OUT IN AN APARTMENT BLOCK IN THE SAN ROQUE AREA OF GUADIARO.
Thanks to residents quickly raising the alarm, everyone in the building was able to escape without serious injury. However, a fire crew had to rescue a woman and her child from a balcony and the local health centre treated 20 people for smoke inhalation. Fire crews evacuated people from the affected building, as well as three neighbouring ones.
The blaze started in a vehicle parked in the underground car park of an apartment building in Avenida Mediterráneo owned by Emroque, the municipal housing company. Two cars were totally destroyed and another two badly damaged. The fire service stated that the presence of combustible material in the garage resulted in a large quantity of smoke which had billowed up through the apartment block when the fire crews opened the emergency access points to the garage. The building’s electrical installations and water pipes were also damaged. The fire service stressed that it is important for apartment blocks to maintain their security measures, as crews had great difficulty reaching the blaze because emergency doors had been locked.After the fire many residents criticised the town hall for a lack of care and provisions provided while they were stuck out in the street, many until 06.00. They said it was a cold night, many were in their nightclothes, including children and elderly people, and all they were given were some blankets and bottles of water.
Alora entrepreneurs in naked pursuit of success
By Oliver McIntyre
A group of young entrepreneurs in Álora have created a promotional calendar for their businesses that features sexy, suggestive and in some cases semi-nude photographs of themselves. The idea, hatched during a gathering of friends at a local bar, was spearheaded by Juan Ramón Reina of Digital Álora and his girlfriend, María Dolores García, who together organised the photo shoots and took the pictures.
Only 120 calendars were printed – 10 per business – to be handed out to friends, family and favoured customers. But word quickly spread around town and residents, many of whom have seen the photos on the business association’s website (www.aeca.net), have been requesting copies of the racy wall calendar.The entrepreneurs hope all the publicity will help generate more revenues at their businesses, which include everything from bars to hair salons, stationer’s to clothing shops. One of the ‘hottest’ photos is of an air conditioning/heating business, whose owner posed in the buff, covered only by a strategically positioned climate-control wall unit. If they do another calendar next year, he may have to bare himself even further; his other business, he says, is a mobile-phone shop.
Campo de Gibraltar guaranteed water in 2007
Málaga province faces possible water shortages in the year ahead
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S WATER AGENCY HAS STATED THAT THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR AREA WILL NOT HAVE ANY WATER SUPPLY PROBLEMS THIS YEAR DESPITE THE CONTINUING LACK OF RAIN.
With Andalucía facing its third year of drought the agency has reported that the supply situation in Huelva, Cádiz, Sevilla and Córdoba is good, that Almería may have to rely on its aquifers but that the situation in Málaga is poor.
The supply situation in the Campo de Gibraltar could have important implications for Málaga if the drought continues through to the summer. With the lack of water in the province in 2006 emergency works were implemented to bring water in from other locations to increase the supply in Málaga. Some of these works, including a link to the Guadarranque reservoir, have been carried out in the Campo de Gibraltar hence that region’s water levels could impact on Málaga.
AUTHORITIES ASK FOR SENSIBLE USE OF WATER
The director of the water agency, Antonio Rodríguez Leal, has stressed that although the Campo de Gibraltar should not suffer any water cuts in 2007 the situation depends on the sensible use of water by all. He stated that both the public and administrations had to be aware of the situation and use water as sparingly as possible. He added that there was little point in urging the public to be more economical with their water when town halls washed down streets with drinking water.The levels of water in the reservoirs in the Campo de Gibraltar in the Guadarranque and Ammodóvar are up on the same period last year although the Charco Redondo is showing a 15 per cent drop. Hence the reasonable use of water is assured but the situation could alter towards the end of this year if no rainfall is recorded and water is wasted and not conserved.
Tranvía crash five prompts further safety measures
All accidents have been caused by other vehicles
By Dave Jamieson
ANOTHER COLLISION BETWEEN A PRIVATE VEHICLE AND VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA’S NEW LIGHT TRANSPORT SYSTEM, THE TRANVÍA, HAS RAISED FURTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SYSTEM’S SECURITY.
The accident last week was at the same spot where one of the trams was derailed on December 6 when a lorry apparently jumped a red traffic light and collided with it. In the most recent incident, a private car also went through the junction on red, crashing into the tram. No-one was injured although the impact produced damage to both vehicles though each was able to move from the scene unaided. Passengers from the tranvía, however, completed the journey by bus.
This was the fifth road traffic accident involving the tranvía since the system went into service on October 11. While only one serious injury has resulted, all appear to have followed errors by other road users. In November, a 25-year-old motorcycle rider suffered a broken ankle after he reportedly strayed into a prohibited zone and crossed the tram’s path, while a fortnight later, in the most serious incident so far, the lorry which went through the junction on red pushed the tram eight metres off its tracks.
The third accident was a minor bump with a private car in December while the fourth, in Torre del Mar on Christmas Eve, caused a 45-minute suspension of services after another private car crossed the path of the tranvía, resulting in a collision.
In recent weeks, “rumble strips” have been installed in the approach to the junction involved last week in an attempt to slow vehicles down to give enough time to stop if the lights turn red. The councillor responsible, Sara Sánchez, again emphasised that all the incidents have been the result of road users making illegal moves and also confirmed that the traffic lights are to be moved further away from the junction. Members of the opposition Partido Popular in the municipality have again called for a review of safety and security system on the tranvía’s route.
TOWN HALL HAS SUBSIDISED LOWER FARES
Meanwhile, the town hall in Vélez-Málaga has revealed that it subsidised the new tranvía by 60,000 euros in its first two months of operation. The operator, Travelsa, has sent a bill for the amount which is the difference between the fare paid per journey, presently one euro, rising later to 1.30 euros – and operating costs, agreed at 1.42 euros. Opposition councillors say that the ongoing cost to the municipality will be high while passengers numbers remain low.
Plans for Torremolinos mega-mall move forward
By Oliver McIntyre
The Torremolinos town council last week rejected challenges that had been submitted against plans to reclassify 150,000 square metres of land near the town’s Palacio de Congresos conference centre for the construction of a huge shopping centre and five-star hotel. The challenges were rejected with the votes of the ruling Partido Popular over the dissenting votes of the opposition Izquierda Unida and Socialist (PSOE) parties.
The town’s mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, called the planned mall and hotel “the most ambitious project Torremolinos has taken on.” The mega-mall “will draw from the entire area between Gibraltar and Nerja and will have no equal in all of Spain,” he said. The shopping centre is expected to create 2,500 direct jobs and the luxury hotel at least another 150, according to the mayor.The opposition parties argued that such a major project, which involves reclassifying the land from tourism-use to commercial use as well as an 80 per cent increase in the maximum allowable building on the site, requires an official revision of the local development plan (PGOU), not simply town hall approval. They also voiced concern for the impact the large mall would have on local small businesses.
More brides than ever at Benalmádena's Bil Bil
The town’s seaside venue has been busier than ever this year
By Oliver McIntyre
LAST YEAR 430 COUPLES CELEBRATED THEIR WEDDINGS AT BENALMÁDENA’S CASTILLO BIL-BIL, THE RED-COLOURED 1930S ARAB-STYLE MUNICIPAL BUILDING PERCHED ABOVE THE BEACH OF THE SAME NAME.
It was the biggest year ever for nuptial bliss at the increasingly popular Bil-Bil, with 30 per cent more weddings than in 2005, according to town hall figures.
Bil-Bil now attracts more couples from outside Benalmádena than from the town itself. In fact, the biggest group of brides and grooms are from Málaga city, home to 194 of the couples married at the Castillo last year. Eighty-four couples were from Benalmádena, with the rest hailing from other coastal towns, the rest of Spain and abroad.
The Castillo, set among fountains and palm trees, has also become a popular wedding location for gay and lesbian couples following Spain’s 2005 law legalising same-sex marriage. Last year there were 27 same-sex weddings at the facility, 18 between men and nine between women.
Despite the famed popularity of June weddings, at Bil-Bil the most popular month was September, with 65 ceremonies. January and February were the slowest months, with just 10 weddings each.Couples who want to be married at Bil-Bil must file a request with the town hall six months in advance and pay a fee of 180 euros. The town hall provides basic decorations including oriental carpets and floral arrangements, as well as music, a town councillor to preside over the ceremony and standard wedding vows for those who wish to use them. The weddings are held on Saturdays, three during the morning and seven in the afternoon/evening, each lasting half an hour. The area where the weddings are celebrated has a capacity of 200, around 40 seated and the rest standing.
Barbate loses out to Mexico in battle of Trafalgar
Hipotels hotel group dropsout of the ill-fated project
By David Eade
THE HIPOTELS HOTEL GROUP HAS DROPPED OUT OF THE ILL-FATED TRAFALGAR HOTEL PROJECT DECIDING INSTEAD TO INVEST IN THE MAYA RIVIERA IN MEXICO.
Despite recent assurances from Barbate town hall that the group was still interested in the scheme, the director general of Hipotels in Andalucía has now stated that the company no longer wants to invest in Cádiz. He added that the company had wasted five years on the Trafalgar project.
Originally, Hipotels and TUI planned to construct a large tourist complex behind the Trafalgar lighthouse. The project ran into immediate difficulties on environmental grounds because the area is a local beauty spot. Eventually, after numerous modifications were proposed, the regional government has finally given the green light for a project, which differs considerably to the original one. The number of bedrooms has been reduced from 950 to between 500 and 600 and authorities have demanded a reduction in building density, lowering it from 72,000 square metres to 45,000 on the 300,000 square metre site as well as requiring a two-storey height restriction.
Hipotels says this would not be a viable investment. The 60 million euros, which it would have spent at Trafalgar, is now to be invested in Mexico, where construction of a three-hotel complex with a total of 2,000 rooms is due to begin in March.
TUI STAYS PUT
According to the group, the Mexicans have been extremely cooperative and all the arrangements have been made within a year and a half of beginning negotiations. For its part TUI is still planning to participate in the project and intends to build a Club Robinson hotel on the site.
Organ donations drop linked to safer driving
Spain continues to be world leader in number of organs donated
By Dave Jamieson
THE SUCCESS OF THE COUNTRY’S NEW DRIVING REGULATIONS IS BEING LINKED TO A FALL IN THE NUMBER OF HUMAN ORGANS AVAILABLE FOR TRANSPLANT.
Since the introduction of licence penalty points last year, the number of deaths on Spain’s roads has fallen, and the National Transplants Organisation (ONT) says this led to three per cent fewer donations of organs last year.
Rafael Matesanz, ONT’s national co-ordinator, said last week that the correlation “fewer accidents, fewer transplants” was reflected across the country as a whole, but not in certain of the autonomous regions. However, with 33.8 donations per million inhabitants, Spain continues to be the world leader in the number of organs donated, a position it has now held for 14 years. Sr Matesanz added that the fall was not worrying, since donations following road fatalities now account for only 14.3 per cent of all donations, compared with 43 per cent in 1992.
FAMILY REFUSALS DOWN
Reviewing last year’s statistics, the ONT says that one of the most encouraging facts to emerge was the reduction in the number of families who refuse to allow the organs of a relative to be used after death. This has now fallen to 15.2 per cent nationally, the lowest in the world, with two regions – Navarra and La Rioja – recording no refusals at all.
ID photocopy not necessary for filing paperwork
NEWS Staff Reporter
Under a new central government policy, it is no longer necessary for citizens and residents to provide copies of their DNI or NIE identification card or a printout of their certificate of residency (‘empadronamiento’) when filing paperwork with state offices like the Traffic Department or Social Security.
Instead, the person’s ID card or certificate of residency will be confirmed via a search of police or National Statistical Institute databases. Those who do not authorise the use of the database search will be required to provide the photocopies. The government estimates the new system will save some seven million hours of administrative procedures in 2007. Up until now, people filing paperwork with government offices submitted four million ID photocopies and 3.5 million certificates of residency each year.