News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Sohail to host major cultural events
Concerts, a beer festival and a medieval market will all be held in Fuengirola's castle
By David Eade
Fuengirola's Sohail castle is to host major leisure and cultural events over the summer. This will allow the resort's authorities to jointly promote the Moorish fortress along with Fuengirola.
The XIV Festival Ciudad de Fuengirola will see Spanish crooner Raphael appear on July 3 and Catalan star Joan Manuel Serrat on July 10. Another major name to appear will be pop group La Oreja de Van Gogh who are booked for August 7.
Other dates for the diary are the International House Festival (July 18), the second Pop Weekend (August 8) and Elegant House (August 22). These will attract the best artists from around the world in each genre.
Flamenco will reverberate around the Arab fortress walls on August 27 and on the following day it will be the turn of the Rocio choirs.
Green light for Costa railway project
Government and Junta join forces to create rail link between Málaga and Estepona
By Oliver McIntyre
The central government and the Junta de Andalucía are to create a joint public company to manage the construction of a Costa railway that will link Málaga to Estepona. One of the priorities will be to seek public-private funding arrangements to expedite the project, said the public works minister, José Blanco, and Andalucía's president, José Antonio Griñán, after the two met last week in Sevilla.
The meeting also furthered hopes that the entire line will be created from scratch as a high-speed railway, as opposed to being an extension of the existing Cercanías commuter line that runs from Málaga to Fuengirola, with Sr Blanco indicating his support for the proposal.
The original plan for the Costa railway called for Junta to take responsibility for the new stretch from Fuengirola to Estepona while Public Works would carry out upgrades on the Cercanías tracks. However, while Public Works has added a second track along some of the stretches where there was just a single track, the existing Cercanías line would not be able to handle high-speed AVE trains and even if it could, the frequent stops on the commuter route would make it difficult if not impossible to achieve fast trip times on the longer routes.
Right to die
Junta approves pioneering ‘dignified death' law for terminally ill patients
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía cabinet on Monday approved a ‘right to die' law that, once formally passed by the regional parliament, will be the first of its kind in Spain.
The law, aimed at providing terminally ill patients the right to a ‘dignified death', allows them to reject artificial means of life support, including halting already ongoing treatment such as by disconnecting a respirator.
It also allows the use of palliative sedation in terminal cases, which could be used to minimise the suffering of someone who elected to be removed from life support.
The rejection of artificial life support can also be made in advance via the creation of a living will, which doctors will be obligated to respect in the event that injury or illness has left a patient incapacitated to express his or her wishes.
Unless there are medical contraindications, terminal patients will have the right to receive palliative care in their own home, and in the company of family members. Those who must be hospitalised will be guaranteed their own, unshared hospital room.
The Junta's health chief, María Jesús Montero, who oversaw the drawing up of the legislation with input from health professionals, scientists and others, said the law in no way addresses euthanasia (actively provoking death) or assisted suicide (helping someone to actively take their own life), both of which are criminal offences under Spanish law.
She said Andalucía's ‘right to die' law was inspired by cases such as that of Inmaculada Echevarría, the Granada woman who fought a legal battle before finally winning permission to be disconnected from her respirator in 2007, or the malpractice accusations against doctors at Madrid's Severo Ochoa hospital over the sedation they administered to terminally ill patients.
Transsexual rapist to be jailed with female inmates
Prosecutor's office appealed ruling but provincial court has upheld decision
By Oliver McIntyre
A transsexual man convicted of raping a woman has won a petition to be transferred to the women's unit at the Alhaurín de la Torre prison, despite the strong objection of the prosecutor's office.
The 40-year-old La Línea de la Concepción man was convicted of rape in 1998, and until now has been held in his own cell in the prison's arrivals section as the facility has no specific area for holding transsexuals. Last year he managed to get himself listed as a woman in the Civil Register in San Fernando, Cádiz, after which he petitioned for transfer to the prison's female unit.
The court that handles penitentiary issues granted his request, and the publicprosecutor's office immediately appealed to the provincial court, which has now upheld the lower court's ruling.
The prosecutor argued that despite the formality of the prisoner having been listed in the civil register as a woman, he in fact has undergone no sex-change surgery and still has male genitalia, making his transfer to the female unit "contrary to all logic." He noted that the man's criminal history shows his victims have always been women; in addition to the rape, he has prior convictions for an assault and for physically abusing his mother. Further, he has been repeatedly denied sex-change surgery because doctors found he had an impulsive personality disorder in which "the sexual identity disorder is merely one of the symptoms, not true transsexuality," said the prosecutor.
Los Monteros: a luxury hotel in crisis
Marbella mayor seeks urgent meeting with Russian ambassador
By David Eade
The workers at Marbella's five-star Los Monteros hotel have locked themselves in the hotel premises in protest over the continuing saga of the troubled establishment.
Los Monteros, one of the most famous luxury hotels on the Costa del Sol, has been in crisis for many months, with the previous owners having not paid workers. Then the Russian petroleum company North West Oil stepped in to purchase the hotel and the workers thought the nightmare was at an end. In fact it was just beginning.
Los Monteros has now been closed and for over a week its workers have launched a sit-in. On Monday the mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, visited them in the hotel lobby and spoke with union officials and hotel workers.
There have been suspicions that North West Oil intends to permanently close the hotel, demolish it and construct homes on the prime beachside site. However, Marbella town hall has moved swiftly to block that action by ensuring that the zone is designated in the new local development plan (PGOU) as being solely for hotel use.
Sra Muñoz has announced that she is seeking an urgent meeting with the Russian ambassador to Spain, Alexander Igorovich Kuznetsov. She said she wants to brief him on the current situation at the hotel and let him know all the angles of the conflict.
Former mayor released on 120,000-euro bail
Martín Alba faces charges for town planning corruption in Alcaucín
By Dave Jamieson
"The time has come to defend myself," said Alcaucín's former mayor, who was provisionally released from jail last week. José Manuel Martín Alba had been behind bars for three months awaiting a court appearance on charges of urban corruption.
Sr Martín Alba left Alhaurín de la Torre prison on Friday evening after bail of 120,000 euros had been raised. His family had opened a bank account and asked local people to help raise the sum required. His lawyer, Manuel García Córdoba, said the response was very positive.
The former mayor was arrested on February 27 on orders from a Vélez-Málaga judge in a major Guardia Civil operation which closed access to Alcaucín for a time, and he was imprisoned on March 3. He was immediately expelled from the PSOE party and resigned as mayor.
The head of the architect's department at the provincial government, José Francisco Mora, was detained on the same day but provisionally released on May 11 after posting bail of the same amount.
Described as looking noticeably slimmer but in good spirits, Sr Martín Alba told waiting journalists that all the accusations against him are false, adding that his spell in prison was "hard." He faces charges including bribery, money laundering, perverting the course of justice and urban offences committed during his 18 years as Alcaucín's mayor. However, he said that he was "convinced" that he had always acted properly. In the meantime, the brick-layer and part-time flamenco singer has been ordered not to leave the country and to present himself before the authorities as required.
Electric companies vie for clients ahead deregulation
Consumers have until July 1 to choose a supplier or be assigned a default one
By Oliver McIntyre
Deregulation of Spain's electricity-supply industry takes effect on July 1, giving consumers the right to choose between more than a dozen suppliers with or without direct links to the current major distributors.
As the new free-market companies vye for customers, many are offering discounts and incentives.
However, a study by the consumer group Ceaccu shows that some 80 per cent of the more than 22 million electricity consumers in Spain remain unaware that they have until July 1 to select a provider. Those who do not do so will be assigned a default provider at a basic, government-established rate (TUR, for Tarifa de Último Recurso). In Málaga province, for example, the default service provider will be Endesa Energía XXI.
Despite the jockeying for market share, the electric companies say that unlike in other industries, such as mobile phone service, they have such low margins that there is little room to offer price discounts to domestic consumers. Average discounts on offer for domestic service have been around two per cent.
In the industrial service sector consumers have more leverage to negotiate better deals, with potential discounts more than 10 per cent, according to market observers. Such large-scale users include businesses, urbanisations and other entities with supply contracts of over 15 kW.