Costa del Sol News - 28th February 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week 28st February - 5th March 2008


Last Monday, February 25, in front of a full house at Torremolinos' Palacio San Miguel, the 19th edition of the town's world famous European Dance Championships kicked off with a grand gala performance. The competition runs until March 1, with contests taking place day and night in all types of dance, from Spanish sevillanas to rock'n'roll and Argentinean tango. More information and full programme can be found on

CÁrtama shocked by violent domestic abuse case

Elderly man hit wife in head with hammer then committed suicide

By Oliver McIntyre

Residents and town hall representatives in Cártama united in protest last week following a shocking domestic violence incident that left a 65-year-old woman in hospital and her 71-year-old husband dead by suicide. The protests Wednesday morning outside the town hall and the Tenencia de Alcaldía offices in El Sexmo and Estación de Cártama included a five-minute moment of silence and the reading of a town hall manifesto against domestic violence.

The incident that sparked the demonstrations occurred the previous day, when residents of Calle Tirso de Molino in Estación de Cártama heard screams coming from the 65-year-old woman’s home and went to her aid. They found her bleeding from head wounds allegedly caused by her husband hitting her several times with a hammer. He fled on a motorcycle and hours later was found dead hanging from a tree on a rural property he owned in the Loma de Cuenca zone.

The woman was rushed to Málaga’s Hospital Clínico Universitario, where she was treated for what were described as non-life-threatening wounds.

Prior abuse
It is understood that the couple, who were married for more than 30 years and had two daughters, no longer lived together and were in the process of separating. The man was arrested last year for domestic abuse.

“Domestic violence is a problem that affects us all,” said the town hall manifesto read at the protests. “The government and all of society must continue to work, using all the means necessary, to put an end to situations such as the one that unites us here today.”

Woman loses custody of son

By Dave Jamieson

It has been revealed that the fruit juice which allegedly killed a Granada man (CDSN, Feb. 7-13) had been heavily laced with cocaine. The 40-year-old from Ogíjares died on January 27 soon after drinking from a bottle of Tahitian Noni, which is made from the fruit also known as Indian or Beach mulberry.

A representative from the product’s European distributors said last Thursday that analysis of the contents of the bottle found in the victim’s house had shown high levels of cocaine. Kathrin Aue also confirmed that the National Institute of Toxicology had found the drug in the body of the dead man as well. It is not known how the bottle came into his possession and the investigation has been passed to the National Police in Granada, although one hypothesis is linking the tragedy to drugs smuggling.

The company which produces Tahitian Noni has called on the public not to drink its products if they come from “unknown sources.” The bottle involved in the Granada incident was made of glass and was produced by the Morinda company of Mexico. Following last week’s news, the Andaluz health councillor, María Jesús Montero, said that the fruit juice should be avoided and that any bottles already purchased should be handed into the regional health department.
Tahitian Noni International said that its products had undergone rigorous independent safety inspections by European authorities and it offered Spanish investigators its full collaboration.

Deadly accident at controversial building site

Costalita residents oppose the ‘huge ugly grey’ warehouse store

By David Eade

A 30-year-old labourer was killed last Friday at morning at a controversial construction site on the Costalita urbanisation in Estepona. The victim, an Estación de Cartama resident and father of two children, died after being hit by the shovel head of an excavator.

The National Police, fire brigade and an ambulance raced to the scene, but the medics’ were unable to resuscitate the man and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bill and Natalia Cox live opposite the construction site and witnessed the accident, a tragic event that further marred what is already a much reviled development project. The construction of the industrial-size retail warehouse was featured in the January 31 edition of the Costa del Sol News as residents were angry over the “huge ugly grey” warehouse going up in their midst.

Mr Cox said: “The land was sold a few years ago by Urbis and its current owner is Bogaris, one of Spain´s biggest developers. Bogaris’s client for this location is Bricorama, the French hardware group expanding aggressively into Spain.”

The original planning was “for residential use with shops below,” he said. Residents are furious and mystified as to why and how a mixed residential/retail development has turned into a giant warehouse.

Town hall silence
Photographs of the construction have been sent to the town planning department of Estepona town hall but without any response. Hence, until some adequate explanation is given, residents’ anger can only increase.

Mayor faces court action over Los Merinos Golf

Case against 50 protesters shelved

By David Eade

The mayor of Ronda, Antonio Marín, will have to face a Ronda court after it opened an investigation into a complaint laid by the Izquierda Unida last October. It accuses the Partido Andalucista mayor of town-planning and environmental offences for his approval of the Los Merinos golf complex.

The IU’s case was seconded by the regional government and was referred to the court by the Málaga prosecutor, and now the judge has ordered both the town hall and Andalucía government to provide testimony.

Sr Marín, apart from being the mayor of Ronda, is also his party’s candidate for the Andalucía parliament in the March 9 elections. He has stated that he is not concerned about the court investigation as he is confident that he has acted within the law.

The mayor insists that the provisions for the golf course are laid out in Ronda’s 1993 local development plan. The crux of the IU and regional government’s complaint seems to rest on the fact that he finally gave the go-ahead for the works at Los Merinos on the basis of a mayoral decree.

Meanwhile, the government delegate in Málaga, José Luis Marcos, has signalled that Los Merinos could be approved if the developers presented a new project that conforms with the regional government’s new golf law.

The new project would have to be submitted to Ronda town hall, which would in turn forward it to the regional government’s Public Works Department for approval.

Charges dropped
In a related case, the government sub-delegation in Málaga has shelved the charges that were brought by the Guardia Civil against around 50 protesters in November 2006. The group, made up of walkers, mountaineers and environmentalists, blocked the Ronda-Cuevas del Becerro road in protest against the Los Merinos developers, who they alleged had cut the GR-7 public footpath. They faced 301 euros fines for holding an unauthorised protest and blocking the road, but the government has decided to drop the fines.

Legionnaires' outbreak case goes to court

Judge to hold preliminary meetings with victims and family members

By David Eade

The judge of the Torremolinos court hearing the case concerning the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the Club de Hielo ice rink in Benalmádena is to meet with 23 people involved in the case.
The encounters, to take place over the next month, will be with the victims and families of those who either died from the outbreak or suffered illness. The Legionnaires’ outbreak occurred in June of last year and amongst the three fatal victims were two Britons.
The lawyer for the Asociación Defensor del Paciente said this series of meetings would form the “first phase” of the case. It will allow the court to make known the findings of forensic reports and for those involved to make statements to the court.

The case was opened after the Málaga prosecutor considered that there were potential charges of homicide and negligent injury to be answered in relation to the outbreak. The association has also filed its own complaints on behalf of those affected.

Cooling tower was source
The cases brought by the association involve not only those who died but also others who had to take time off work to deal with the effects of the illness. It is understood that the outbreak was caused by the cooling tower at the ice rink. Also being investigated is the documentation relating to the facility’s licences from Benalmádena town hall. The Club de Hielo is a municipal facility but is operated on concession by a private company.

Gibraltar slashes landing fees ahead of summer

Minister says cost cutting will help to develop existing services

By David Eade

ONE OF the key reasons given for airlines not using Gibraltar’s airport has been the high cost of the landing fees. This was given as the cause for Monarch switching its Manchester service to Jerez last year and is also said to be behind the reluctance of airlines to establish new routes to and from the Rock.

Last year the Gibraltar government took over control of civil matters at the airport from the Ministry of Defence and promised that this would result in a lowering of landing fees. Now it says that a more cost effective set of charges will come into effect on March 30, the start of the 2008 summer schedule.

Deputy Chief Minister, Joe Holliday, who is responsible for tourism said the cost cutting will help to develop existing services and open up opportunities for new destinations. He added: “This new financial model will have the desired effect in the medium term to develop existing services and open up opportunities for new destinations. Gibraltar airport was simply too expensive compared to similar airports elsewhere, and in this day and age, airport costs are an important factor in the business and financial model of a modern airline”.

Seventy per cent discount
In a statement the Ministry of Enterprise, Development and Technology stated: “The current landing, navigation and parking fees will be discounted by 70 per cent to all commercial airline operators on new and existing routes. The current Passenger Service Charge will remain at £10 per passenger and will be known, in due course, as ‘Air Passenger Duty’, in line with industry practice.”

With the reduction in landing fees an Airbus A320 that currently pays a landing fee of £1,362 will be paying approximately £400.

Work on Costa railway to start in Mijas

By Oliver McIntyre

Work on the long-awaited Costa railway – which will extend the existing Málaga-Fuengirola Cercanías line to Estepona and upgrade it to allow the use of high-speed trains – is to begin with a four-kilometre stretch of tunnel from Las Lagunas to La Cala de Mijas.

The Junta de Andalucía has put out to tender the 221 million-euro project for the double tunnel (one tube in each direction), with bids due by April 22. Once the contract is awarded, the completion timeline is estimated at 42 months.

Under an agreement between the Junta and the Development Ministry, the regional government is responsible for the entire stretch of new track from Fuengirola to Estepona, while the Development Ministry is responsible for upgrades to the existing Cercanías line so it can handle trains with speeds over 200 kph. Over the last few years Development has doubled the track along much of the 30-kilometre Cercanías line, but the track must still be upgraded for high-speed trains.

The new Fuengirola-Estepona tracks, covering a total of 56.6 kilometres with 14 stops, will run mostly underground due to the dense development of much of the area it passes through, says the Junta.

The goal is to create a high-speed coastal railway that will “permit travel times that are very competitive with private car use,” say Junta officials. They estimate trip times of just 11.5 minutes from Estepona to Marbella and 10 minutes from Marbella to Fuengirola. When complete, the entire Málaga-Estepona line is expected to carry some 40 million passengers a year.

Alhaurín delivers stack of protests against POT

More than 9,000 resident complaints against housing development

By Oliver McIntyre

Alhaurín de la Torre’s mayor, Joaquín Villanova, last week delivered more than 9,000 resident complaints against plans for a major new housing development in the town. The stack of complaints was so large that the mayor, accompanied by town hall and resident representatives, needed a trolley to wheel them into to the Junta de Andalucía’s Public Works offices in Málaga.

The regional development plan (POT) for the Málaga metropolitan area calls for the construction of 7,200 new homes in the Piamonte zone, between El Romeral and Arroyo del Valle. Sixty per cent – or 4,300 homes – would be subsidised housing units aimed at lower-income families.

“Now we just have to wait for the Junta’s response,” said the mayor.
In addition to the resident complaints, the town hall filed several of its own complaints or comments on the POT. One was regarding the proposed housing development, and the others included a rejection of the proposal for the La Alquería zone to be classified as protected non-building land, and a request for a light-rail system from Málaga to Alhaurín and other Guadalhorce Valley towns.

Alhaurín el Grande
Meanwhile, neighbouring Alhaurín el Grande town hall has also submitted a 10-point comment on the POT. Among its most important requests is that the hugely controversial plan for a northern bypass road be definitively dropped from the regional planning document. Other requests include the protection of two million square metres of land atop the Alhaurín and Coín aquifers, and for the POT to provide 300,000 square metres more than it currently does for the town’s planned ‘Technopolis’ industrial park.

Woman sues hospital over undetected breast cancer

Suit claims failure to repeat ‘cloudy’ mammogram led to loss of breast

By Oliver McIntyre

A 55-year-old woman who had a mastectomy due to breast cancer has filed a 53,000-euro lawsuit against the Clínica Salus hospital in Benalmádena for failing to detect the cancer during routine annual screening. Antonia Montero claims that a mammography test performed at the hospital in 2005 came out cloudy and unreadable but that the hospital told her the results were negative – that everything looked fine.

But a year later, in 2006, she had another mammography screening at the hospital, and this time the cancer was detected.

The doctor who detected the cancer said it looked too advanced to have not shown up on the previous year’s screening, according to Sra Montero’s lawsuit. He reviewed the previous year’s mammogram and told the patient it was difficult to believe the test had not been repeated at the time, as the fuzzy image allowed “no possibility at all of diagnosis,” says the suit.

It continues: “As a consequence of the medical negligence, the patient received late diagnosis of her illness; this led to the surgical removal of the breast and 17 auxiliary lymph nodes.”

Hospital reaction
The hospital has not commented on the case except to say that all of the pertinent medical records have been submitted to its legal department, and that it will be up to the courts to decide on the matter.

Italian donkeys could help Spanish pollution

Nerja group says burros could replace rubbish lorries

By Dave Jamieson

The donkeys of a southern Italian town may hold a key to reducing pollution in Andalucía, according to a Nerja group.

The Junta de Andalucía has been asking non-profit organisations to come up with initiatives to protect and improve the environment and the Nerja Donkey Sanctuary thinks it has found one. The volunteer-run sanctuary rescues donkeys, mules and horses, as well as other stray animals, and houses them at its stables in the west of the town.
Members recently accepted an invitation to visit the rural Sicilian town of Castelbuono, where four rubbish collection lorries have been replaced by 10 donkeys. The town’s mayor, Mario Cicero, has been working to make his municipality the most environmentally friendly in Europe and the novel waste disposal system was introduced two years ago. The mayor told his guests that the donkeys have proved to be quicker and more efficient than the trucks, and that a dozen donkeys - which do not pollute the air - cost the same to run as just one of the vehicles. The animals’ handlers are out with them six days a week, collecting recyclable waste and replacing the noisy, dirty trucks that used to congest the narrow streets of Castelbuono’s old town. The mayor said he also intends to make the donkeys’ milk available to families with children who are allergic to cows’ milk. The scheme has placed the town amongst those with the highest environmental quality in Italy, according to the Lega Ambiente (Environmental League).

Donkeys available
The Donkey Sanctuary now plans to send a report on its visit to the Junta in the hope that some town halls might sit up and take notice. It has also offered the use of its donkeys and stabling if Nerja itself wants to experiment with a trial scheme.

Zapatero and Rajoy open election battle

First televised PM debate in 15 years watched by 13 million viewers

By David Eade

Monday saw the first of the face-to-face debates between the current socialist (PSOE) prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and his Partido Popular opponent, Mariano Rajoy. Screened on national television, it was the first such encounter for 15 years and was viewed by more than 13 million people. It was an ill-tempered affair in which both candidates accused each other of lying.

Sr Rajoy told Sr Zapatero: “I am for Merkel and Sarkozy and you for Chávez and Castro, that is the summary of your foreign policy.” However, the debate was wide-ranging, covering immigration, the economy, social policy, and the fight against Basque terrorist group ETA.

Prime Minister Zapatero accused the PP of lying by blaming ETA for the Madrid train bombings that occurred just ahead of the 2004 elections. The atrocities were in fact carried out by Muslim fundamentalists, some argue due to Spain’s involvement in the war in Iraq.

Sr Rajoy stated that in the last four years the Spanish people had faced steep rises in the prices of basic foods, problems with mortgages, as well as the very structure of the nation and the dealings with ETA. Sr Zapatero countered that Spain had enjoyed four years of magnificent growth in an unstable world market, and the “8.5 per cent unemployment figure is the lowest since Spain became a democracy.”

Long ‘campaigns’
Just as many observers may have already grown weary of the US presidential elections, which, although the vote does not take place to November, seem to have been going on forever, so watchers of the Spanish political scene may be surprised to learn that the campaign for the general election only officially started last Thursday. It, too, seems to have been running forever - but the end is now in sight. The vote is on Sunday, March 9.

GRECO organised crime squad for Algeciras

It will be province’s second GRECO unit

By David Eade

During a visit to Cádiz’s provincial government last week, Spain’s minister of the interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, announced that a separate GRECO organized crime fighting squad of the National Police is to be set up in Algeciras.
The government began creating the GRECO network of police units in 2005. There were already organized crime squads throughout the country, but these new specialised units were to operate independently and target organised criminal networks, especially those involved in drug trafficking.
Squads now exist in the Málaga, Levante, Galicia, Cádiz as well as the Canary and Balearic islands.
Currently the Cádiz unit covers the whole of the province, which presents major problems because of the large area involved and the fact that 70 per cent of the hashish entering Spain from North Africa arrives in this zone. Hence the decision to create a separate entity in Algeciras with 12 dedicated officers.

Hash haul
Around the time Rubalcaba was making his speech, the GRECO squad of the National Police found 50 kilos of hashish on a rubbish dump in Medina Sidonia. The drugs came from Ceuta and were introduced into Spain in rubbish lorries, a new technique for bringing hashish in to the country. Police say the haul had a market value of over 220,000 euros. A 35-year-old Medina Sidonia man who was to have distributed the drugs has been arrested.