Costa del Sol News - 17th April 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 17th April - 23rd April 2008


A radiant Lisa McArthy, resident of the Jacaranda residential care home, celebrated her 100th birthday on April 9 with a huge birthday cake and a great party, put on by Georgie Shapiro and her team of nurses and carers. During the celebrations she received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a card from Queen Elizabeth II, presented to her by British Consul Bruce McIntyre and his wife, Norma.


Secondary roads targeted in speeding crackdown

By Dave Jamieson

A MASSIVE operation is underway to reduce the number of road accidents caused by speeding. Three thousand vehicles on Málaga roads are being checked every day as part of a two-week nationwide campaign mounted by Tráfico.

In one of every four road accidents, speed is a contributory factor and was directly related to 1,000 deaths last year, according to the department which regulates road use. The present campaign is targeting secondary roads with two-way carriageways which accounted for 2,000 deaths on the country's network last year. Tráfico said 16 people died on Spanish roads last weekend, including six vehicle drivers, a motorcyclist and a quad bike rider. Up to April 13, the total number dead in road accidents this year was 578, 152 fewer than in the same period last year.Nationally, the speed of a million and a half vehicles will have been checked by 350 radar points on nearly 2,000 stretches of road by the time the intensive campaign ends in ten days. Tráfico says that as well as avoiding accidents, driving within the speed limit improves traffic flow and makes an appreciable saving in fuel consumption which can increase by as much as 44 per cent with only a 20 per cent rise in velocity.The campaign is being supported with an advertising campaign, as well as with reminders displayed on information panels situated above major roads. Those speeding at more than 100 kilometres per hour on urban roads, 200 kph on motorways or 170 to 180 kph on other roads can now be immediately jailed for between three and six months and lose up to six points on their licences, or be banned from driving for as much as four years.

A dangerous machine

The association "Stop Accidents" says the causes of high road mortality in Spain are "multiple." The group's vice-president, Jeanne Picard, said these include lack of training of motorists, the permissiveness of the present legislation and failures to observe regulations, above all excess speeding. "We have created access to a dangerous machine," she said, "and do not how to control it."The association also believes that a 2004 amendment to the law, which allowed licensed car drivers to ride motorcycles of up to 125 c.c. without taking an extra test, has allowed the "irresponsible" use of powerful motorbikes with matriculation plates which often cannot be read by radar checks. A fifth of those who died in road accidents so far this year are reported to have been on motorcycles.

British buyers hit byproperty fiasco

Off-plan profits lost after double whammy leaves purchasers high and dry

By David Eade

IN JUNE 2006, the then mayor of Jimena de la Frontera, Ildefonso Gómez, announced that the town's Arenal 2000 development had been sold out and the keys were about to be issued to the Spanish and British buyers. However nearly two years on and purchasers are only now taking possession of their properties, and for some Britons the experience has been a financial disaster.Not long after the mayor made his now infamous remarks, the three-block complex was embargoed by the town hall and regional government in a town planning crackdown.The development apparently breached local planning laws, and more seriously, had not built social housing units in Jimena as previously agreed. This resulted in the apartment block nearest the village being confiscated and a draw for these properties was held amongst those who had applied for the social housing units.Many of those apartments had been sold originally to Britons who were unceremoniously allocated flats in the other two blocks. People who had reserved an apartment with a view suddenly found the only view they enjoyed was of a neighbouring flat.However a local estate agent, who has refused to sell property in the complex, explained to CDSN that some British buyers bought off-plan with a view to selling the properties on at a profit. They were hit by a double whammy. Initially they couldn't sell the properties that were embargoed and now they can be sold, the property market both in the UK and Spain has collapsed. Many apartments are now being offered by non-Jimena estate agencies as buyers desperately attempt to sell up.A person who has purchased one of the apartments, and who asked to named only as David of London told CDSN that the complex still wasn't ready to live in: "At the moment the electricity has been sorted and is on and the water is expected to be sorted within the next week or so. As regards the other two blocks I understand that 60 out of the 84 apartments have been bought by a mixture of Spanish and foreigners, mainly British, and many are only now signing deeds and preparing to furnish their apartments."He continued: "The community of owners has been running for some time however until more payments are received then things like the lifts and swimming pool cannot be finalised hopefully this will be sorted soon as more people are now signing up and will be therefore paying into the pot."

Sixty seven other properties under threat

The Arenal 2000 development is not the only property crisis in Jimena. The regional government's Environment Department has decided to enforce the Cañada Real that runs from Manilva to the Pasada de Alcalá. The Cañada Real routes were set up for the movement of livestock and the Andalucian authority intends to restore them to their former use, as well as use them to promote rural tourism and to protect the environment. This means that 67 properties face possible demolition or having part of their land confiscated.Alberto Bullrich who runs the Jimena Pulse blog has identified five properties affected that are probably owned by foreign residents. He admits this figure could be higher as some are in company names and they could be foreign owned too. A meeting will be held at the Reina Sofía cultural centre in Estación de Jimena on May 13 where officials will meet with local residents who have registered as being affected to explain the implications for their property.

Alleged Alorapaedophile faces 13 years in jail

By Dave Jamieson

A SHOP owner from Álora who is alleged to have assaulted young girls when they came in to buy sweets could be facing a long prison term. The public prosecutor last week asked for the court to sentence him to 13 years behind bars.The 61-year-old man, who is accused of eight cases of sexual abuse between 2005 and 2007, was arrested last summer and has been held in custody since then. In Álora at the time, his detention caused considerable alarm as he is well-known in the town and presents a programme on the municipal radio station.The charges claim that he targeted children between eight and 12 years of age, bribing them to stay silent by giving them posters, teeshirts and confectionary. The prosecutor alleges that he always told the girls not to mention the incidents to their friends and that these would remain a secret between them.However, one child eventually confided in her family who raised the alarm, at which point other alleged victims came forward. One girl, whose grandfather was friendly with the accused man, is claimed to have been assaulted on "innumerable occasions" over a three-year period. The prosecutor has called for 13 years imprisonment, an order prohibiting the accused man from coming within 300 metres of any of the girls, and payment of between 600 and 1,000 euros compensation to the children.

Marbella credit card cloning crooks caught

By Suzan Davenport

A 25-YEAR-OLD Romanian man and woman were arrested last week at a well-known Marbella hotel, after National Police officers discovered they'd cloned over a hundred credit cards and bought luxury goods to the tune of 100,000 euros.The couple used an electronic device that they placed over the card slots of public cash machines or ATMs in Marbella. The device reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly passes their card through it. These devices are often used in conjunction with a pinhole camera which reads the user's personal identification number (PIN) at the same time. It is a practice known by police as 'skimming'.Once the cards' data was obtained, the couple transferred the information to a computer and made a copy of the card. Further personal information about the cards' owners was then facilitated to them via the internet and police officers believe that the pair were just the front of a much larger organised fraud network.Officers were tipped off by Puerto Banus shops and credit card companies after the couple spent huge amounts of money in just a few days, using the cloned cards to buy expensive goods which were then sold on the black market at much lower prices. At the time of the arrests police confiscated a large number of luxury items as well as the cloned cards and false IDs and a spokesman said that further arrests weren't ruled out.

Nerja in mourning asprominent local man dies

Manuel Millón's body was found with a gunshot wound to his face

By Dave Jamieson

THE BODY of Manuel Millón Armijo, who was the head of the mayor's office at the Town Hall, was found with a gunshot wound to his face on the beach below the Balcón de Europa early last Thursday morning. Police have been trying to piece together the final minutes of Sr Millón's life after bloodstains were found in the Partido Popular (PP) office, about 400 metres away. Investigators believe that he shot himself with a small calibre sports pistol which he was found to be carrying, and then walked or ran down to the Balcón from which he jumped, falling about 20 metres to his death. A handwritten letter of farewell from the dead man was found the office.A crowd quickly gathered at the Balcón de Europa and stood in the grey, drizzly morning as Sr Millón's body was recovered by Guardia Civil officers about three hours after its discovery. The Balcón itself was sealed off to pedestrians during the operation and employees from the nearby Town Hall left their desks to join members of the public who wished to stand and pay their respects. His funeral on Friday evening was one of the largest of recent times in Nerja with an estimated attendance of up to 5,000 including senior party figures from the regional PP and PSOE, councillors and mayors from several towns, and other local figures.

A well-known figure

Manuel Millón had been prominent in Nerja's social and political life for many years. He was the nephew of Antonio Millón, mayor of Nerja during the 1970s, and had been a teacher at the Sierra Almijara school in Nerja, later becoming director of the Jorge Guillén secondary school in Torrox between 1992 and 2000. He became a Nerja councillor for the Popular Alliance in the 1980s and for its successor, the PP, in the 1990s. He was the mayor's secretary and after last year's local elections was given the role of heading the mayor's office. Sr Millón was also one of the founders of the Jesús Resucitado brotherhood and, as such, was heavily involved in Nerja's Easter Week activities. In addition, he was deeply committed to the project which will eventually see a hospice built in the town, and was a great sports enthusiast. He was 58 and leaves a widow and two children in their twenties.

Fury in Genal Valley overdeath from peritonitis

By David Eade

THERE IS widespread fury in the Genal Valley after a 24-year-old Gaucin man died in Ronda Hospital from peritonitis after having been twice discharged by the regional hospital. His family is now pursuing a case of negligence against the medical authorities. Mayor of Gaucín, Teodoro de Molina, said in a clearly angry statement: "It is unacceptable that in the 21st century a 24-year-old can die from appendicitis."Luis Alberto Ramírez González first went to the health centre in Algatocín with vomiting, diarrhoea and deep pains on March 31. He was seen by a doctor who correctly diagnosed him as suffering from peritonitis and sent him straight away to the emergency department at Ronda hospital.Once there the medical staff insisted he only had food poisoning or a virus. They kept him seated in a chair for 20 hours, giving him ten bags of drip serum and medication in the interim. The following day he was discharged and returned to Gaucín to await the results of tests. On April 3, Luis Alberto's family called the doctor in Gaucín but he couldn't come to their house as he was the only one on duty. On April 5 the family says that they took him again to the emergency department at the Ronda hospital "where they treated him like a dog." He was given some antibiotics and sent home.Eight hours later, he had a fever of 39 degrees and was very weak, his family called the 061 emergency service to again take him to the hospital. However the only ambulance serving the entire Valle de Genal had been called out and couldn't collect him for at least an hour. It was at this point that Luis Alberto's sister decided to take him, yet again, to the Ronda hospital in her own car.Once at the hospital the young man suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the intensive care unit. Tragically he died in the hospital on April 6 around 14 hours after being taken to the medical centre for the third time. A second post mortem has been carried out on Luis Alberto's body and an internal enquiry at the hospital is in progress. The Serranía health authority is also asking a judge to review the facts in this case.

Mayor promises to fight for illegal property owner

Each case will be studied by the town hall separately

By David Eade

IT IS estimated that there are 1,100 illegal homes in Mijas that are currently under the threat of demolition. Last Friday the mayor, Antonio Sánchez, met with an association of more than 200 owners to discuss their plight.Sr Sánchez promised the owners that he and his administration would leave no stone unturned in their efforts to make as many of these homes as possible legal and avoid their destruction.To achieve this the town hall is to work hand in hand with the property owners, and Sr Sánchez stressed: "The situation of each resident will be studied carefully and case by case."The association for the regularisation of homes in Mijas is to present its case for legalisation to the commission drawing up the new local urban development plan (PGOU) for the municipality. The president of this association, Juan Antonio Blanco, stated he was very pleased to learn that they would be able to participate in all the important meetings that related to the fate of the homes and their owners.

Top priority

He stressed that the top priority at present was to have demolition orders, fines and legal action against the properties suspended while the situation was sorted out and that this will probably mean that the association will have to go to court on behalf of the affected owners.To ensure that local illegal property owners are kept fully informed the association is holding meetings in the various affected areas of the municipality. Last week it was the turn of La Alquería and on Thursday (April 17) a meeting will be held in Osunillas.

Roca proclaims hisinnocence as he is set free

Alleged Malaya mastermind has to report to Guardia Civil daily

By David Eade

JUAN ANTONIO Roca, the alleged mastermind behind the Malaya corruption scandal at Marbella town hall where he was the head of town planning, has been released from jail. Before he was driven away from the Albolote prison in Granada he told waiting reporters: "Now I have to prove my innocence".Roca was freed on a one million-euro bail that his lawyers and family had taken several weeks to raise. The judge's decision was opposed by the police, a very angry Marbella administration, and the regional government, which pointed out he could be legally detained for up to four years before trial.The court ruled that Roca should be freed as he could only be held if there was a risk of his fleeing the country or tampering with evidence. The judge believes that Roca will not try to leave Spain and that he cannot gain access to evidence.Roca said that he hadn't had the power to defend himself for two years. He added: "During this time Marbella town hall, the regional government and the prosecutor have been saying that I am responsible for 50 per cent of the problems in this country and the other 50 per cent are Zapatero's fault."Also released, but just for the weekend, was former Marbella mayor Julián Muñoz. He is implicated in the Malaya case and a string of town planning offences and has been held in Jaen and Alhaurín de la Torre jail since his arrest in July 2006.Muñoz spent the weekend at the Mi Gitana house owned by singer Isabel Pantoja in the Marbella urbanisation of Lapera. No sign has been seen of the couple together and Julian Muñoz has only ventured out of the property to visit his children or to register with the Guardia Civil. His comings and goings have been followed by an eager press pack as well as local residents who have hurled abuse at him.

Savings ahead forGuadalhorce rail userS

New travel card will combine rail and bus transport

By Dave Jamieson

DETAILS have just been made available of savings which will benefit local rail users in the Guadalhorce valley from the end of this year. Those to benefit will be passengers on the C-2 line between Álora, Pizarra, Cártama and Málaga.Discounts of between 15 and 40 per cent were promised last week by Rafael Durbán, head of Transport Consortium of the Málaga Metropolitan Area. These will become available thanks to the accord signed less than a month ago between the public works department, the Andalucian Transport Consortium and Renfe. When fully operational, a travel card will cover rail and bus transport throughout the participating area, an initiative which presently only covers bus travel. Sr Durbán said complete details of the discounts would be made known nearer the time of their implementation.The new operation will be introduced in two phases. First, the travel card will be available to be used to pay for tickets at automatic issuing machines positioned in local railway stations, so avoiding the need for cash. Later, pre-paid cards capable of holding up to 500 euros of credit will be available at kiosks, and with these will come discounts on travel.Experts think that the plans will increase passenger use of the Guadalhorce local railway line which is already one of the busiest and important transportation systems in the area.

Missing teenager found dead in local mountains

Post-mortem examination confirmed that Manolo died from ravine fall

By Dave Jamieson

THE BODY of the 15-year-old missing from Canillas de Aceituno since March 31 (CDSN last week) was found last Saturday morning. Members of the Guardia Civil spotted his remains in a very steep, mountainous area known as Peña Grande. He was reported to have been found lying under a rock at the bottom of a deep ravine two kilometres from the town.The grim discovery was made at 11.30 am by members of the Guardia's mountain rescue unit during a search involving 75 members of emergency and rescue services from Moclinejo, Torrox, Nerja, Alhaurín and Vélez-Málaga. The remote location is about an hour's walk from the home of Manuel Marín Hidalgo, known as Manolo, who vanished 12 days previously without taking money, documentation or his mobile phone. The body had many cuts and bruises caused, it is thought, as Manolo fell around 60 metres to his death.A helicopter was brought to assist in the recovery operation but strong winds meant it could not land and was forced to return to base. Finally, the corpse had to be carried for more than a kilometre to a point accessible by a four-wheel drive vehicle in an operation which took more than an hour. A post-mortem examination confirmed that Manolo had died from the fall, probably on the day he disappeared, and that there were no signs of violence or of intervention by a third party.

Two days mourning

An estimated 3,500 people lined the streets of Canillas de Aceituno for the funeral on Sunday afternoon which was attended by mayors and councillors from a dozen communities across the Axarquía. Mass was led by the Bishop of Málaga, Antonio Dorado Soto. The town declared two days of official mourning with all bars and restaurants closed for much of Monday.Manolo's family had launched a widespread leaflet campaign and many local people had joined the searches for him after his disappearance on March 31. Last week, Guardia Civil officers took away his computer and mobile phone for analysis but found that he had deleted files and lists of calls which might have given clues to where he had gone and to whom he had been speaking.

Mijas holds information day for foreign residents

NEWS Staff Reporter

THE FOREIGN Residents' Department of Mijas town hall is holding its third information day on April 25.The day takes the form of a conference where experts, including Brian Deller who writes a motoring column in the Costa del Sol News, will talk on various subjects of particular interest to the foreign community living in the municipality. On the agenda are regulations concerning car ownership in Spain, taxes and local charges as well as the deadly beetle that is attacking palm trees all along the Mediterranean coast.A highlight will be the first showing of 'Mijas - the path of history'. This film was made by the local television station 340 TV but is based on a film that was made in 1955 and recently donated to the municipality by a foreign resident.The event will be rounded off with a gourmet meal of local dishes. Registration to participate costs just 15 euros and as places are strictly limited it is important that those wishing to attend contact Anette Skou at the Foreign Residents' Department at Mijas Town Hall as soon as possible.

Two-wheeled security for Málaga parks

Thirty innovative personal transport vehicles will be used in a dozen locations

By Dave Jamieson

IT MAY NOT be the traditional image of a British „parkie“, but park-keepers in Málaga are now getting around on two wheels. The town council has invested 750,000 euros in purchasing personal transporters, known as segways, for use at more than a dozen locations around the city.The director general of Segway España, Francesco Llorens, said that the electrically powered, ecological vehicles are now in use all over the world. Two hundred and fifty police corps are among those employing the devices which carry their drivers at up to 20 kilometres per hour on a platform 20 centimetres above the ground. The 30 city park keepers who began using the segways earlier this month and who are charged with a security brief as well as other responsibilities, will also be equipped with mobile phones to summon help in the event of an incident arising.

Steering is amatter of balance

The Segway Personal Transporter was invented by Dean Kamen of New York in 2001. Computers and motors in the base keep the device upright and balanced, while users simply lean in the direction in which they wish to travel. In some parts of Europe, it is illegal to use segways on public roads or pavements, but in Málaga a successful tourist business has been offering segway tours of the city for some time. The city's new segways were launched by Mayor Francisco de la Torre on Friday when he took a ride on one alongside a number of his park keepers.

Nerja plans local busroutes to Ladera and Maro

Council has asked university to study transport requirements

By Dave Jamieson

CHANGES ARE on the way for Nerja's municipal bus service. The town council is considering extending routes both east and west from the centre.Local transport councillor, Antonio Miguel Navas announced last week that service is likely to be extended west - as far as Ladera del Mar at the border with Torrox - and east, to take in the village of Maro. He said discussions with the present operator, Viajes Verano Azul, were underway but no final decision on future services would be made until the results of a new study are known.The town hall has commissioned the Chair of Transport at Málaga University to undertake research which will reveal the town's public transport requirements. He said the plan would then be to invite tenders from companies wishing to operate Nerja's local bus services, as defined by the University's conclusions, at the end of this year, with the intention of having the new routes in operation by next summer. The local transport undertaking in Nerja was last adjudicated in 1998.The town is also likely to have an extra taxi. Councillor Navas said a reduction is to be made in the coefficient used to calculate the number of taxis the town can support for its population size. This would automatically mean the town's 30th taxi could be licensed.


New socialist government began work on Monday

Zapatero begins second term with more women than men in cabinet

By Dave Jamieson

JOSE LUIS Rodriguez Zapatero was sworn into office for his second term as Spain's prime minister on Saturday and announced a cabinet composed of more women than men. It also includes the country's youngest-ever minister.Prime Minister Zapatero's PSOE socialist party fell seven seats short of an absolute majority in last month's general election and it took a second vote in Congress last Friday before his return to office was confirmed. On Saturday, he was sworn in in the presence of King Juan Carlos.There are nine women and eight men in the new cabinet, and it is the first time a woman has held the post of Minister of Defence; the former minister for housing Carme Chacón, a 37-year-old Catalan who is presently more than seven months pregnant, takes over the role from José Antonio Alonso who leaves the cabinet to become the socialists' spokesman in Congress. María Teresa Fernández de la Vega remains as deputy prime minister while Pedro Solbes, now 65, retains the second deputy prime minister title as well as head of the Tax and the Economy Ministry. Málaga's Magdalena Álvarez remains as Development Minister.

Five new faces

Among the five new faces around the cabinet table will be Bibiana Aído from Cádiz who, at 31, is Spain's youngest-ever minister and takes on Equality and Social Services. She is joined by Celestino Corbacho at Work and Immigration, while Beatriz Corredor becomes minister of housing. Miguel Sebastián, a former chief economic minister and close friend of the prime minister, finds himself at Industry, Tourism and Commerce. Commentators have noted that he is the first minister responsible for energy in more than ten years not to come from Cataluña which, they say, means he may not look favourably on a rumoured merger between the region's Gas Natural and the country's largest utility, Iberdrola.The prime minister stressed the importance of his new Science and Innovation Ministry. This is headed by the fifth newcomer, Cristina Garmendia, and is designed to reduce Spain's dependence on construction and to encourage hi-tech industries. The move is intended to address Spain's low productivity rate, one of the worst in the eurozone; last Wednesday the IMF estimated the country's economic growth this year would be just 1.8 per cent, less than half last year's growth. In addition, the National Statistic Institute issued figures last Friday showing inflation was at its highest rate for 11 years; the annual figure to March was 46. per cent up from 4.4 per cent in February.