News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 1st March - 7th March 2007
Briton arrested for murder
Alleged Torremolinos killer was a wanted fugitive in the UK
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
POLICE HAVE ARRESTED A BRITON, CARL B.C., 40, FOR THE MAY 2006 MURDER OF 70-YEAR-OLD BRITISH MAN IN TORREMOLINOS.
The detained man was also wanted on an international arrest warrant issued by the UK, where he broke out of prison in 2004 while serving a life sentence for murder, said Spanish police officials.
The body of the victim, John H., was found in a Torremolinos home around two weeks after he was killed, according to investigators. Two mattresses had been pressed against the bedroom door, apparently in an effort to seal in the eventual smell so that neighbours would not be alerted. The house had been meticulously cleaned to remove any potential evidence, said police.
The Spanish police cooperated with Interpol and UK law enforcement to identify the suspect following initial investigations and interviews of people close to the victim. Early on, investigators learned that the victim had been living with the son of a long-time friend. The roommate, whose whereabouts were unknown, became the prime suspect. Police had his description – shaved head, tattoos and a ‘boxer’s nose’ – and were told he sometimes went by the name Carl and other times called himself Ray.
When the police finally caught up to him, the alleged murderer was carrying a falsified British ID. He had been travelling throughout Spain and other countries, making it difficult to track him down, said police. The suspect was arrested last Thursday and jailed pending trial. In Spain he faces charges for murder and falsifying official documents; officials did not indicate whether his extradition to the UK on the British arrest warrant will be considered prior to his trial here.
Mayor of Gaucín faces court trial
Prosecutor seeks one-year prison sentence and ban from holding office
By David Eade
THE CONTROVERSIAL MAYOR OF GAUCÍN, FRANCISCO CORBACHO, FACES A MÁLAGA PROVINCIAL COURT TRIAL AFTER THE MÁLAGA PENAL COURT SAID IT DID NOT HAVE THE JURISDICTION TO TRY HIM.
The mayor stands accused of misappropriation of public funds and obstruction. The prosecutor is seeking a one-year jail sentence for Sr Corbacho’s alleged use of council funds for his own benefit, plus a six-year ban on holding public office for not allegedly not providing councillors with information they should have had access to. The opposition Partido Popular at Gaucín town hall is bringing a private prosecution and is asking for a six-year jail sentence.
Francisco Corbacho holds his mayoral post as an independent. At the time of the alleged misdeeds he ruled with the Socialist (PSOE) party’s support. The PSOE subsequently withdrew its backing, but he topped the poll at the 2003 election and now governs with the support of the Partido Andalucista.
The case against the mayor dates back to December 2002, when he allegedly borrowed town hall funds for his own use. It is claimed that while the town hall accountant was on holiday the mayor ordered several cheques totalling 200,000 euros to be made payable to the bearer, and then cashed them.
MUNICIPAL SALARIES UNPAID
The mayor purportedly intended to pay the money back a short time later, and in fact some of the money was repaid, but it appears that he was unable to return the whole amount. At the end of January 2003 Gaucín found it lacked sufficient funds to pay municipal salaries and other costs, and the situation was reported to legal authorities. Francisco Corbacho is said to have borrowed money from relatives and friends to enable him to settle his town hall debt. However, when the PP councillors asked to see the documentation about the movements of the funds the mayor is said to have refused to supply the information. In March of 2003 he allegedly refused to discuss the matter at a council meeting then ordered the municipal police to evict everybody from the chamber.
Fourteen airlines in talks with Gibraltar
NEWS Staff Reporter
As Gibraltar’s parliament met for the first time, replacing the former House of Assembly, the minister responsible for tourism, Joe Holliday, revealed that 14 airlines are currently talking to the government with a view to operating services from the Rock.
This sudden increase in interest amongst airlines has come since the airport was opened up to joint use following last September’s Córdoba Agreement between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar. The minister told parliament that of the 14 airlines involved in discussions, six are keen to start regular services.
At present the only airline flying between Gibraltar and mainland Spain is Iberia, with its daily service to Madrid. According to official figures issued by Iberia, passenger occupation levels of the service stand at approximately 50 per cent. Between December 16, 2006, when Iberia carried out the inaugural flight, and February 17, a total of 3,820 passengers flew the Madrid-Gibraltar leg, representing a 48.4 per cent average occupancy. For the Gibraltar-Madrid leg, the number of passengers for the same period was slightly higher, at 3,981, or a 50.4 per cent average occupancy.
School registration begins today
New criteria for placement preference is aimed at keeping siblings together
By Oliver McIntyre
AS REGISTRATION FOR THE 2007-08 SCHOOL YEAR KICKS OFF TODAY, PARENTS IN OVERCROWDED COSTA SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE MORE LIKELY THAN IN PREVIOUS YEARS TO GET ALL THEIR CHILDREN INTO THE SAME SCHOOL.
The Junta de Andalucía has revised the point system used to determine which students get placement preference for first-time enrolment, and the biggest change is that greater weight is given to having siblings already enrolled at the school.
In the past, a child seeking first-time enrolment was given three points for each sibling already at the school. That now jumps to six points per sibling. In addition, the number of siblings at the school will be the first criteria considered as a tie-breaker in cases where two or more students have equal overall placement scores. Previously, the tie-breaker was proximity of the family home to the school. The new policy is intended to benefit families and allow siblings to attend school together, say officials.
Other than no longer serving as the tie-breaker, proximity of the home (or the parents’ workplace) to the school is still the most important single factor. Children who live in the school’s immediate zone receive 10 points and those in peripheral areas receive six.
For the first time, children from single-parent homes receive two points, putting them on par with children from families with three or more children. Children from low-income families receive between 0.5 and two points, depending on the income level, and those with disabilities get two points. Children with a disabled parent get one point and those with a disabled sibling get 0.5. The new system does away with the half point previously given to children with chronic stomach disorders requiring a special diet. This has been dropped because it was suspected that many parents, seeking any advantage possible, were falsely claiming their children suffered such disorders. The 2007-08 enrolment period begins today and remains open throughout the month of March.
New tranvía crash brings closure call
By Dave Jamieson
Vélez-Málaga’s new light transport system has been involved in yet another traffic accident, the seventh since the tranvía went into service in October. Opposition councillors have repeated their demands for the system to be suspended pending a full safety review.
In last Friday morning’s incident, a private car jumped a red light on Calle Clavel and collided with one of the tram units. Damage was minimal and both vehicles were able to continue on their way after a few minutes.
The latest problem for the tranvía came only days after opposition Partido Popular (PP) councillors at Vélez town hall wrote to the regional government asking for a formal study to analyse possible deficiencies in the system following a derailment 10 days ago (CDSN, Feb. 22 – 28). In his letter to the Junta de Andalucía, PP representative Francisco Delgado Bonilla described the municipal tramway as “a piece of nonsense” and asked for its operation to be suspended until it could be guaranteed as totally safe for both passengers and other road users. He said the derailment had not been an isolated incident and that the tranvía’s safety problems to date “are not normal” in such systems.Following the latest collision, Vélez’s councillor for traffic, Sara Sánchez, again called for “maximum collaboration and care” on the part of drivers. She said it was a minor incident and insisted that the tranvía is safe. The transport councillor, Antonio López, said that all the traffic accidents have been caused by other vehicles impacting with the tram, “not the other way round.” The PP repeated its calls for the system to be closed. The town’s ruling Socialist (PSOE) party, however, countered by accusing the PP of creating “social alarm” and undermining the tranvía’s image.
Urgent action demanded against processionary cater
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Partido Popular in Mijas is demanding that urgent action be taken by the town hall against the processionary caterpillars that have infested pine trees in various urbanisations in the municipality.
The pine processionary caterpillar is a common and potentially dangerous pest that propagates in certain pine forests. The insects, known in Spanish as ‘procesionaria del pino’, can cause acute allergic reactions in some people, including irritation of the skin and eyes and effects on the respiratory system. The caterpillars can also be very dangerous to dogs that eat or inhale them. In addition, they pose a threat to the trees because they can dry up the sap.
Although the call for action came in Mijas, the pests are common throughout the Costa del Sol. Their presence can be identified by their woolly nests in pine trees. Pet owners especially should be on the lookout for nests or lines of marching caterpillars on the ground.One Costa town, Torremolinos, has implemented a new method for combating the pine processionary caterpillar. Known as endotherapy, it involves injecting a treatment into the tree trunk, rather than fumigating, which has been the traditional method fighting the pest. Local officials say the method has so far proved highly effective, and has the added advantage of avoiding the spread of potentially dangerous pesticides in the air. Each treatment is supposed to be effective for two years. Torremolinos is the first town in Spain to adopt the method, which was first developed for ornamental plants by an Italian researcher.
Train mishap leaves thousands stranded
AVE line shut down after enormous girder fell onto tracks
By Dave Jamieson
AROUND 1,500 RAIL PASSENGERS TRAVELLING TO OR FROM MÁLAGA SUFFERED SEVERE DISRUPTION LAST WEEK AFTER A CRANE CARRYING A 37-METRE, 140-TON GIRDER TOPPLED ONTO THE TRACKS.
The accident happened at Getafe, a southern suburb of Madrid, during construction work on a new road bridge and totally blocked the main AVE line 12.8 kilometres from the capital’s Atoche station. No injuries were reported in the incident, but the travel plans of an estimated 17,000 people in the south of the country were thrown into chaos.
Twelve Talgo 200 trains due to arrive at or leave Málaga’s Vialia María Zambrano station were delayed, in some cases for more than three hours, while a total of 120 trains in and out of Madrid were affected. Some passengers were transferred to coaches to get round the site of the accident, and in other cases trains were rerouted off the AVE tracks and onto conventional rail lines, resulting in travel at much lower speeds. Many passengers leaving Málaga decided to postpone their journeys while others chose to switch to air services instead.
Sixty-four trains in Andalucía, including those to and from Granada, Sevilla and Córdoba as well as Málaga, were affected. Passengers left stranded at stations complained of a lack of information provided by Renfe. Consumer-advocate groups recommended that those affected make a claim with the rail operator’s customer service department.The work to remove the crane and its cargo continued through the night and then rail authority inspectors moved in to examine the damage caused to the rail tracks. Some 200 metres were replaced and around 1,000 metres repaired.
Nerja to share costs of urbanisation upgrades
NEWS Staff Reporter
Many Nerja residential complexes built in the last 30 years are expected to be affected by a new town hall proposal to address infrastructure deficiencies in unadopted urbanisations.
Under the proposal, the town would oversee projects to modernise basic infrastructures in the urbanisations, with the cost of carrying out the work shared equally by the town hall and local residents. Once the work is completed, the urbanisations would be ceded to the town, which would then be responsible for future maintenance and conservation. It is estimated that 25 urbanisations could be affected by the proposal, which now goes before the local Association of Urbanisation Presidents (APCUN) for approval. APCUN’s president, Alfons Mettel, said the proposal is “positive” and will address about half the urbanisations in Nerja which are presently unadopted. With respect to owners having to pay 50 per cent of the costs involved, Sr Mettel pointed out that if the plans were not accepted, owners could find themselves in the position of having to pay the entire amount themselves.
Pueblo unites to help mother keep her son
By Oliver McIntyre
AROUND A HUNDRED PEOPLE STAGED A DEMONSTRATION IN BENALMÁDENA PUEBLO LAST THURSDAY IN SUPPORT OF A LOCAL ARGENTINIAN WOMAN WHO FACES LOSING HER FIVE-YEAR-OLD SON DUE TO A CUSTODY RULING ISSUED BY A COURT IN HER HOME COUNTRY.
Thanks in part to the efforts of neighbours, friends and the schoolmates of her son Matías, Guadalupe Reynoso, 29, has won a at least a brief stay in having to hand the boy over to his father to be taken back to Argentina.
Sra Reynoso left her home country a year and a half ago with permission to travel internationally with her son. But the father later won a court order for the permission to be annulled, arguing that she was not travelling, but living in Spain permanently.
Sra Reynoso claims that the father was abusive to both her and her son, and that he maintained essentially no contact with Matías since the two left Argentina. She and Matías have been living in Benalmádena since November 2005, she is now married a Spanish man, and both she and Matías consider Benalmádena their home, she says.
When Sra Reynoso went to court in Málaga on Friday for the scheduled handing over of Matías to his father, she went armed with a petition signed by local residents, as well as documents from the town hall and Matías’s school demonstrating that the boy is fully integrated in the town. She also had medical certificates stating that Matías is suffering from chickenpox and should not travel. The court postponed the handover for 15 days.
Local residents supporting Sra Reynoso say that the court decision has bought them the time they needed to mount a “massive campaign” to battle the Argentina court’s ruling. They say they plan to get NGOs involved and have found a lawyer to make her case before the Argentina courts. A protest has been scheduled for 18.00 Friday, March 2, at the Benalmádena Pueblo bus stop. Sra Reynoso and her supporters say they believe the case was handled unfairly because the legal process in Argentina occurred without her knowing about it and she had no chance to defend her and her son’s rights.
Free podiatry service for diabetics
Andalucía launches pioneering programmeto help prevent amputations
By Oliver McIntyre
TWELVE THOUSAND DIABETICS IN MÁLAGA PROVINCE ARE TO RECEIVE FREE PODIATRY SERVICES UNDER A NEW ANDALUCÍA HEALTH SERVICE (SAS) POLICY.
The scheme makes private podiatrists available to diabetics who suffer circulatory problems that can lead to a condition known as diabetic foot. Around 15 per cent of the 80,000 diabetes sufferers in Málaga meet this criterion.
Officials are currently in the process of certifying the private podiatrists who will be allowed to provide the SAS-funded service. When the programme gets underway in a couple of months, the patients will have access to the certified podiatrists, who will directly bill SAS. The programme will fund only treatments directly related to preventing ulcerations and other problems that can potentially lead to foot amputation.
DOCTORS NOT CONVINCED
The Málaga Association of Podiatrists has criticised the plan, saying it provides insufficient coverage due to the “ridiculous” level of funding allowed per patient per year. SAS will pay 18 euros per patient per year, or 25 euros in the case of homebound patients to whom the podiatrist has to make a house call. The podiatrists say diabetes sufferers with circulatory problems should really be seen once a month.
Despite the alleged shortcomings, the SAS policy is the first in Spain to provide podiatry service under the public health care system. Once complete, the list of certified podiatrists is to be posted on the SAS website and distributed to health centres for doctors to provide to patients.
Málaga pueblos still dumping untreated wastewater
NEWS Staff Reporter
More than two dozen towns in Málaga could face EU fines for failing to properly treat municipal sewage. An EU directive set January 31, 2005, as the deadline for towns with populations of between 2,000 and 15,000 to have wastewater treatment plants (towns with populations of over 15,000 had to meet the requirement by 2001). The 25 non-compliant Málaga towns have a combined population of nearly 190,000 people, whose sewage is being dumped untreated, or insufficiently treated, into the region’s rivers and coastal waters.
The towns without functioning treatment plants are Alameda; Alhaurín de la Torre; Alhaurín el Grande; Almargen; Almogía; Álora; Arriate; Cártama; Casarabonela; Coín; Colmenar; Cortes de la Frontera; Cuevas de San Marcos; Guaro; Mollina; Nerja; Ojén; Periana; Pizarra; Ronda; Sierra de Yeguas; Teba; Torrox; Villanueva del Algaidas; and Villanueva del Rosario.
In the majority of cases construction is either scheduled to begin this year or has already begun. In Ronda and Almogía, building work is already essentially complete but the plants are not yet functioning. Construction is also underway on the Torrox plant. Construction contracts have been awarded for the two plants that will treat the wastewater from Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande, Álora, Cártama, Coín and Pizarra, and officials say the architectural plans are nearly complete for Nerja’s plant. There are also plans to put out to tender this year the design and construction of the plants that will serve Alameda, Almargen, Casarabonela, Colmenar, Cuevas de San Marcos, Guaro, Mollina, Sierrra de Yeguas, Teba, Villanueva del Algaidas and Villanueva del Rosario.
Endesa causes outrage in Tarifa and La Janda
By David Eade
PROPOSED REAL ESTATE AND WIND-PARK PROJECTS HAVE BROUGHT ELECTRIC COMPANY ENDESA UNDER FIRE IN BOTH TARIFA AND LA JANDA.
In Tarifa the criticism revolves around the sale by Bolonia Real Estate, a subsidiary of Endesa, of 195 hectares of land for development in the Estrecho National Park. Critics say the parcels of land on offer are part of a coastline with very high ecological and historical value and are zoned for non-urban use.
There are two parcels, said by Boloino Real Estate to be for urban and tourist development, on land that runs down to the coast at El Lentiscal. The property was acquired by Endesa some years ago.
The mayor of Tarifa, Miguel Manella, has told the media that he has no knowledge of any development under the title ‘Bahía de Bolonia’ being promoted by Endesa. He said no application had been made to build in the natural zone close to the historical sites of Bolonia. He also added that in the draft local development plan (PGOU), no urban development is being contemplated for the area. OFFSHORE WINDMILLSMeanwhile, the recent announcement Endesa that it intends to join forces with the Elecnor group (comprising Enerfin-Enervento) to set up the Cape Trafalgar Consortium has acted as a call to arms for residents and politicians of La Janda.
The aim of the new consortium would be to promote marine wind parks in southern Spain, an issue that arouses strong opposition from much of the local population. The Socialist (PSOE) party, the mayors of Barbate and Conil, and the Plataforma Antieólica protest group are among those expressing outright rejection to marine wind parks. They warn that although the president of the regional government, Manuel Chaves, has promised that no wind generators will be placed out at sea without widespread consensus, people need to keep an eye on the situation.
The secretary general of the PSOE in Cádiz, Francisco González Cabaña, says the position of his party couldn’t be clearer. “We do not want maritime wind parks off the coast of the province, and we are going to fight against those who want to create them, using every means available to us,” he said. He also questioned the business strategy of Endesa in getting involved in a debate which, he said, his party had previously considered definitively closed.
The mayors of Barbate and Conil have differing opinions on whether Sr Chaves will stick to his word about not building wind parks offshore. Antonio Roldán (Izquierda Unida) of Conil believes the regional government will not support such a project without consensus, although he called for people to be vigilant. His counterpart in Barbate, Juan Manuel de Jesús (Partido Popular) is doubtful about the regional government’s intentions and is convinced that the wind parks will become a reality. He says that Endesa and Elecnor would not be proposing the consortium unless they knew they would have support from the Junta.FISHERMEN OPPOSEDLocal fishermen are against the wind generators not because they oppose alternative forms of energy, but because they do not want the wind parks in their waters and insist that there are better locations for them, where they would cause less damage. Six marine wind parks have already been planned offshore – five, totalling 3,000 to 3,500 megawatts, off the coast at Barbate, Vejer and Conil, and one of 140 megawatts off Chiclana - but they have been suspended because of the lack of laws regulating this type of installation.
Caution: Whales crossing
By David Eade
Spain is asking ships that pass through the Strait of Gibraltar to slow down and mind the whales. The channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and is also a principal feeding ground for whales. Every year reports are made of several being hit by vessels that either do not see them or fail to steer clear, leaving some whales dead and others injured.
Spain’s ‘whale speed limit’ is the first initiative of its type in Europe. From this month the Spanish navy has recommended that vessels go no faster than 13 knots (15 mph) through the Strait. Ships are also asked to exercise maximum caution at the times of year when sperm whales flock to the area to feast on squid.Marine biologist Renaud de Stephanis, head of the group Conservation, Information and Research on Cetaceans (CIRCE), has praised the Spanish move as an “historic step.” The United States is the only other country in the world to issue such whale warnings. De Stephanis explained that fast ferries travelling between Spain and Morocco travel at up to 38 knots (44 mph) and are a particular menace to lumbering sperm whales as they come to the surface to breathe and rest.