News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week 19th April - 25th April 2007
Al Qaeda group wants to re-conquer Spain
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
MÁLAGA IS ONE OF SEVERAL AREAS OF SOUTHERN SPAIN ON A HEIGHTENED TERRORIST WATCH FOLLOWING COMMENTS LAST WEEK BY AN AL QAEDA-AFFILIATED GROUP IN ALGERIA WHICH SAID ITS MEMBERS WILL NOT REST UNTIL THEY HAVE “LIBERATED THE LAND OF ISLAM FROM JERUSALEM TO AL ANDALUS’.
Al Andalus refers to Spain and the Moorish kingdom that occupied it for centuries before the Reconquest finally tumbled the last Moorish bastion in Granada in 1492.
The statement came from a group called Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, as it claimed responsibility for last week’s bombings in Algiers, which killed 33 people and wounded more than 200.Officials stated that vigilance had been stepped up along Spain’s southern coast although there had been no change to the official alert level, which has been at level two (on a scale of three) since the beginning of the ongoing trial in the 11-M Madrid train bombings case. Level-two alert consists of heightened vigilance of areas with large concentrations of people, such as shopping malls and transport stations, as well as elevated protection of public infrastructure such as power plants and water supplies.
Of particular concern are entry points from Africa, such as the ports of Algeciras and Málaga as well as Almería, Alicante and the north African Spanish enclaves Melilla and Ceuta which are all under extra vigilance.The head of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI), Félix Ángel Herrero, called the Al Andalus threat “absurd” and dismissed the terror group as “just a group of madmen.” He said he was confident the Al Andalus comment would not result in xenophobic reactions in Spain.
Prison sought for alleged snail scam operators
By Oliver McIntyre
THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE IS SEEKING A FIVE-YEAR PRISON SENTENCE FOR TWO PEOPLE ACCUSED OF DEFRAUDING 33 FARMERS OF A TOTAL OF 151,000 EUROS BY SELLING THEM BABY SNAILS FOR CULTIVATION BUT NEVER DELIVERING THE GOODS.
Bernardo L.D. and Verónica B. operated two companies in Alhaurín de la Torre, Actividades de Desarrollo Helicícolas y Agrícolas SL and Actividades de Desarrollo de la Helicultura y Agricultura. The prosecutor says that during 1997 and 1998 they signed contracts under which the farmers agreed to purchase the baby snails, which they would raise using the companies’ proprietary techniques, and then sell back to the companies for distribution. Individual farmers paid quantities ranging from 1,500 euros to 30,000 euros, depending on the size of operation they were mounting, and the baby snails were to be delivered within 90 days. But according to the prosecutor, once the money was received, “the accused carried out a premeditated plan to put off delivery of the merchandise, with the resulting losses and expenses suffered by the farmers as they prepared their land, and ultimately never delivered the baby snails nor returned the money.”
CEPSA refinery faces tough new controls
By David Eade
CEPSA faces tighter controls at its refinery in San Roque after local residents in Puente Mayorga and La Línea choked on the sulphur dioxide fumes released from its chimneys on Saturday. The pollution is said to have been caused by a technical fault and follows on from a recent electrical failure that sent thick smoking pouring from the chimneys twice in several days.
Now the regional government has stepped in and says it is investigating the events of Saturday. The Andalucía minister for the environment, Fuensanta Coves, has announced that her officials would meet shortly with Cepsa executives to assess the latest developments and tough new controls will be placed on the refinery.She said her ministry’s aim was to restrict even further the levels of emissions from the refinery admitting that the company had made “numerous errors” in recent years. She added that these types of errors were not acceptable in the 21st century.
Junta investigates baby deaths
By Dave Jamieson
The regional government has launched an investigation following the deaths of two babies at a “hippie” commune near Órgiva.
Ten days ago, an Italian woman and her 18-month-old daughter died after an explosion and fire which seriously injured a second woman. The tragedy took place inside the camper van in which they lived at the commune. In a separate incident the same day, the month-old baby of a Bulgarian couple at the commune was found to be dead on arrival at the local health centre. A preliminary post mortem examination indicated that the cause of death was an infection, described as a “septic shock”.The Junta’s enquiry is reported to be an effort to confirm that the two babies were adequately cared for by their parents. The social welfare delegate in Granada, Elvira Ramón, called for reports from the town halls at Órgiva and Cáñar on the situation of each child and on what had happened in each incident. She said that local administrations were responsible for detecting problems relating to minors.
British woman arrested for prostitution operation
NEWS Staff Reporter
A 56-year-old British woman was arrested last week in Torremolinos as one of four alleged operators of a brothel that employed illegal immigrants as prostitutes.
Rosemary O.B. and three other women – Duangjun K. (53) and Sunantha P.L. (55), both from Thailand, and Edna C.T. (59), from the Philippines – allegedly had eight to 10 women of numerous nationalities working at the club. Seven of them, two Bulgarians, a Romanian, a Moroccan, a Columbian, a Filipina and a Czechoslovakian, were in the country illegally, according to National Police officials.
During the raid on the club, officers also seized 575 euros and small amounts of cocaine and hashish. The police arrested the Briton and her four business partners for labour-related offences – irregular working hours and conditions, lack of work contracts and Social Security contributions, and the employment of undocumented immigrants – as well as sexual exploitation charges. Allegedly they kept 50 per cent of the money generated by the prostitutes’ activities.
Mayor says Estepona Golf owner charges are legal
Homeowners disagree and threaten to take case to court
By David Eade
MORE THAN 120 PROPERTY OWNERS AT ESTEPONA GOLF HELD A PROTEST OUTSIDE THE TOWN HALL LAST WEEK OVER CHARGES BEING IMPOSED ON THEM TO COVER URBANISATION INFRASTRUCTURE COSTS.
As previously reported in the Costa del Sol News, some residents face surcharges of around 30,000 euros.
However, the actions of the urbanisation’s ‘Junta de Compensación’ have been defended by Estepona’s mayor, Antonio Barrientos. He says that when the properties were built, the urbanisation was not finished and that under the recent Andalucía land law (LOUA), the infrastructure must be completed. The mayor says the cost should be covered by the homeowners, according to the size and type of their property.
This view is rejected by the property owners, who are now threatening legal action. They point out that their homes were completed in the late 1980s with all the services and infrastructure in place. They therefore feel it is unjust that they should now be made to pay for the installation of new services and infrastructure for new developments that are being built on the urbanisation.
The owners are angry with the mayor for his lack of support. Recently they urged all local residents to vote for the Partido Andalucista in the May 27 local elections, as that party has spoken out in their support. The PA’s candidate for mayor, Raphael Montesinos, as well as Estepona 2007’s candidate, Rosa Dias, both showed their support by attending the demonstration.The situation facing the Estepona Golf residents is not unique to them, and their protest was supported by property owners from Puerto Romano, Valle Romano, El Padron, Forest Hills and San Roque, who are fighting their own infrastructure battles.
Major money-laundering case in Marbella
NEWS Staff Reporter
On Tuesday police arrested 21 people, amongst them three notaries and a number of lawyers, in a new large-scale money-laundering case in Marbella. As in the famous ‘Ballena Blanca’ case, investigations the new case, code-named ‘Hidalgo’, centred on money-laundering activities said to relate to organised crime.
There appears to be no direct connection between the Hidalgo case and the Malaya investigation into alleged corruption at Marbella town hall, but there do appear to be links to Ballena Blanca; two of the three notaries arrested on Tuesday are also implicated in that case.
At this early stage the legal firm of Cruz Conde seems to be central to the investigation and police arrested the solicitor and carried out a detailed search of his offices. Investigations are also taking place at the luxury jet-set Marbella Club Hotel. The arrests were made under the direction of the Marbella court and the Málaga anti-corruption prosecutor. Over 110 officers of the organised crime squad led the sweep, backed up by 70 other National Police officers, 50 members of the judicial police and helicopter support.
Four step down in Nerja's May elections
By Dave Jamieson
FOUR PROMINENT NERJA COUNCILLORS ARE NOT ON THE LIST OF CANDIDATES ISSUED BY THE PARTIDO POPULAR (PP) AHEAD OF NEXT MONTH’S MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS.
For the first time, a total 21 names appear on the list which is headed by the present mayor, José Alberto Armijo, and includes a former local secretary of the Partido Andalucista (PA).
Sr Armijo said that the councillors who are not standing for re-election had, however, offered to be substitutes in support of their colleagues. The quartet includes Rafel Rivas Maldonado, the first deputy mayor with responsibility for the local police, sport and public health, and Antonio Villasclaras Martín, the second deputy mayor whose responsibilities include economic development, financial management and culture. Francisco Adriano Fernández García, councillor for commerce, traffic and transport, and Carmen Maria Cereto Villasclaras, councillor for employment, youth and social matters, are also absent from the list. Twenty-one names appear on the list including that of current foreign residents’ councillor Emma Hall, four more than in 2003, consistent with the size of the expanded council which will be formed after the elections following the increase in the municipality’s population.
LIST INCLUDES EX-PA SECRETARY
Fifth on the PP’s list is Antonio Miguel Navas who, until recently, was local secretary of the PA. In December, following the party’s dissolution of the local group, Navas left the PA and joined the mixed group of councillors. Mayor Armijo admitted that Navas’ inclusion in the PP’s list had already generated “suspicion and conflicting opinions” but added that it was a sensible decision based on his political experience. The candidates, he said, constituted a “winning list” which would ensure the PP an absolute majority on May 27.
DE LA TORRE FOR MÁLAGA
Meanwhile, the PP in the city of Málaga has placed the present mayor, Francisco de la Torre, at the top of its list of 31 hopefuls. Included are five candidates not directly affiliated to the PP, while in penultimate place appears Carolina Navarro, a world pádel champion. The final name is that of Ángel Martín Carpena, brother of José María Martín Carpena, the Málaga city councillor assassinated by ETA in 2000.
Benalmádena gets go-ahead for 15-storey building
Sale of property will finance Arroyo de la Miel facelift
By Oliver McIntyre
BENALMÁDENA TOWN HALL HAS FINALLY WON PERMISSION TO GO AHEAD WITH ITS CONTROVERSIAL PLANS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF A 15-STOREY MIXED-USE BUILDING IN ARROYO DE LA MIEL.
Known as the ‘edificio singular’, the building is envisioned by the town hall as both a centrepiece for Arroyo town centre and a mechanism to raise funds for a remodelling and modernisation of the zone.
Critics, spearheaded by the opposition Socialist PSOE party at the town hall, complained that the planned building was too tall and out of synch with its surroundings, and in 2003 regional authorities rejected the project. The town hall appealed that decision, leading to the court ruling that has now given the project the green light.
Plans call for the building to include 42 flats plus commercial premises. The town hall expects the sale of the residential and commercial units to bring in a profit of 8.4 million euros for the municipal coffers. The money would be used to implement “a complete modernisation plan for Arroyo de la Miel,” including widened pavements, the elimination of on-street parking and more pedestrian-only zones, among other things.
MAYOR ANSWERS CRITICS
The PSOE met the ruling with further criticism of the project and a call for the mayor, Enrique Bolín, to explain his intentions now that the permission has been granted. The mayor issued a statement indicating that he was pleased with the ruling and making it clear he wants to see the project move forward. He accused the PSOE of having created obstacles causing its delay. Arroyo de la Miel residents “could have already been enjoying the best boulevard on the Costa del Sol,” he said. Opposition councillor and mayoral candidate Jesús Fortes, who is running at the head of his newly formed Iniciativa Democrática por Benalmádena party after recently leaving the Partido Popular to become an independent, says he will call protests if the mayor takes any steps to move forward with the project prior to the May 27 municipal elections.
Nerja building suspended after oversize claims
By Dave JamiesonBuilding of a new headquarters for Nerja’s cofradías (guilds) has been suspended after the area it covers was called into question. The town hall ceded the land in Calle Puente Viejo for its construction which has been underway for some weeks.
However, local members of Izquierda Unida, a left-wing coalition, have denounced the “excessive” occupation of urbanisable land, saying that while the plot provided by councillors was 365 square metres, the project is presently occupying more than 400 square metres. Residents who live nearby are reported to have expressed similar concerns about the building work.A spokesman for the Partido Popular, the ruling group at Nerja town hall, said that a meeting was planned between municipal technicians, local people and various public representatives. José Miguel García admitted that the work had spread into an area which includes an old irrigation ditch, but as this had no use, it was municipal property. He said the decision to expand had been taken by technicians to maintain the proportions of the building.
Happy Birthday Mijas volunteer interpreters
By Oliver McIntyre
MIJAS TOWN HALL HELD A 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION ON FRIDAY EVENING FOR THE VOLUNTEER INTERPRETER PROGRAMME RUN BY THE FOREIGNERS’ DEPARTMENT.
The event, which included the projection of a documentary video about the programme as well as cava, cake and a gift for the 25 current volunteers, was the town hall’s way of thanking the interpreters for the invaluable service they provide to foreign residents at the town’s health centres and Guardia Civil station.
The volunteers’ contribution to the local community goes far beyond the mere translating of words, say local officials. “Their important translation work for the handling of day-to-day situations becomes a source of psychological support for [non Spanish-speaking foreign residents] facing difficult situations,” said a town hall representative. “The volunteers do not just offer a translation service but also inform the foreigners how the medical system works,” added a Foreigners’ Department spokesperson.
VOLUNTEERS CAN MASTER 11 LANGUAGES
The interpreter programme was first launched as an on-demand service provided directly by Foreigners’ Department staff but it soon became clear that the high demand required greater resources. Through the local foreign press, the department put out a call for volunteers, and the response was immediate. The service is now offered at the Mijas Pueblo, Las Lagunas and La Cala health centres, as well as at the CARE hospital and the Guardia Civil headquarters. The two dozen volunteers offer interpretation and translation services in a combined 11 languages. Seven of the current volunteers have been with the programme since its inception a decade ago.
Massive protest march over Delphi closure
Workers joined by Cadíz bay politicians and local residents
By David Eade
LOCAL POLICE SAY 50,000 PEOPLE TOOK PART, THE ORGANISERS 80,000, BUT THE FACT IS, THE MARCH THROUGH THE STREETS OF CÁDIZ AT THE END OF LAST WEEK WAS MASSIVE.
The demonstrators, out in protest at the closure of the Delphi car components factories in Puerto Real, marched in a festive mood but their demands were serious in wanting to maintain employment and industrial activity in the Bay of Cádiz area.
The march set off from the Ingeniero La Cierva roundabout and was led by the leaders of the UGT and CCOO unions as well as the president of the Delphi workers committee in Puerto Real, Antonio Pina. Although the workers affected by the plants closures are Gaditanos, union leader José María Fidalgo explained that there were representatives from all over Spain in the demonstration.
The protest demanded that not only were solutions found to the employment crisis facing the Bay of Cádiz but also that the US-multinational Delphi should be sensible and help find a solution rather than just walk away from the problem. UGT leader, Cándido Méndez, said that Delphi’s decision was considered “immoral” by all European unions and asked the company to reconsider its decision.
PROTESTERS DEMAND PLANT STAYS OPEN UNTIL 2010
Also marching with the Delphi workers were the mayors of the 14 municipalities that make up the Bay of Cádiz zone. They were joined by workers from all the industrial plants in the area, ecologists, families of Delphi employees and the general public. At the end of the march, the director of Canal Sur Cádiz, Modesto Barragán, read out a manifesto that demanded the plant stay open in line with the signed agreements until 2010.