News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Campaign launched to boost local rail use
Guadalhorce mayors say ridership must increase to ensure service upgrades
By Dave Jamieson
THE MAYORS of three towns in the Guadalhorce valley last week signed an agreement to promote the use of local trains between Málaga and Álora. Last month, Renfe renewed some of the rolling stock and committed to operating more frequent services on the C-2 line.
José Garrido, the mayor of Cártama, along with José Sánchez from Álora and Pizarra's Francisco Vargas came together in Cártama on Friday morning to put their names to an accord, the Manifesto for the Railway, the aim of which is to increase the number of passengers using the service. They plan to run campaigns to increase public awareness and collaborate with Renfe on mobility studies. They also want to hold meetings with Renfe and the rail infrastructure body Adif to monitor improvements made so far and discuss possible future upgrades.
José Garrido said that Renfe had promised to increase the frequency of trains in the second half of the year, but has warned that if the present 30 per cent occupancy does not rise to over 50 per cent, it would be difficult to maintain the line with carriages so empty. For this reason, the mayors have launched their campaign to encourage local people to make greater use of the railway.
Also present at Friday's signing was MP Miguel Ángel Heredia, who is the PSOE's secretary general in Málaga. He gave his support to the three mayors' initiative saying that the Guadalhorce valley is an area with the potential for economic expansion, which will require improved communications. The deputy noted that the C-2 line has recently enjoyed major upgrades at its stations, the elimination of eight level crossings along its length and the introduction of latest generation rolling stock, all of which now provide a better service for passengers.
Sean Connery named in ‘Goldfinger' case
Film star and his wife in Marbella town planning investigation
By David Eade
AN HISTORIC treaty between Spain and Gibraltar is reported to be almost ready to be signed. The move is intended to prevent the British territory being used for money laundering but has been criticised in Spain for recognising the colony.
Gibraltar's banking sector provides both onshore and offshore services with a high level of bank secrecy which means that ownership of offshore accounts is confidential and only disclosed in response to a local court order. Around 2,000 of the 25,000 businesses registered in Gibraltar are presently exempt from tax, internet gaming companies employ several hundred local people, and almost a tenth of all UK car insurance is covered from the territory.
Since 1969 when the border was closed by Madrid, Spain has been increasingly suspicious that Gibraltar is used by money launderers. Two years ago, the Spanish government asked the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development to revise the territory's status as a tax haven and to place it on a black list for its lack of cooperation with the Spanish authorities. The tax authorities in Spain described it at the time as "opaque, inaccessible and impenetrable," adding that any information received from the Gibraltarian authorities had been "insufficient and of very little use." Last year, the pressure group Tax Justice Network alleged that 92 per cent of Gibraltar's banking business was secret, leading to tax evasion, corruption and organised crime.
The new treaty on fiscal matters was first agreed in principle last July in a series of three-way meetings between Madrid, Gibraltar and London. However, despite the apparent willingness of Sr Zapatero's socialist government to thaw the icy relationship with the UK over Gibraltar, Spain will not acknowledge that Britain has sovereignty over the colony. A deal between Spain and Gibraltar without the involvement of London would be seen in many quarters as a diplomatic deal too far, despite the fact that Gibraltar has signed similar deals on fiscal transparency with the US, France and Germany without the need for London to rubber-stamp them.
Police investigate body caught in fishing net
Heavily-built man, believed to be Caucasian, had anchor chained to neck
By Oliver McIntyre
AN investigation has been launched after a boat fishing off Benalmádena hauled up a dead body with an anchor tied to its neck.
The crew of the Fuengirola-based fishing boat made the grisly catch at around 8.30am on Wednesday when they pulled up the net, which they had set a couple of hours earlier near the Calaburras lighthouse in Mijas and dragged to a spot about a mile and half off the coast of Benalmádena.
They at first thought the awful smelling bulge tangled in the net was a dead dolphin but then realised it was a human body in an advanced state of decomposition.
The body, described as a heavily-built Caucasian male, was wrapped tightly in plastic and had a small boat anchor chained to its neck. The feet and hands were also missing, but until the autopsy results are returned it is unclear whether the mutilation occurred prior the body going into the sea or was the result of bottom-feeding marine creatures.
Málaga airport shut down for first time in its history as ash cloud once again wreaks havoc on travellers
By Dave Jamieson
ASH from the Icelandic volcano returned to plague air travellers at the weekend. Málaga airport was closed for the first time ever, along with many others in Spain, as the dangerous cloud moved south and east, resulting in hundreds of cancelled and diverted flights.
The problem began in the early hours of Saturday as the ash began to drift into Spanish airspace. At 2am, Santiago de Compostela's airport became the first casualty while eight more in the northern regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and Castilla y León failed to open that morning. Seven others were forced to close at midday while Barcelona, Girona and Sabadell suspended operations during the afternoon.
More than 670 flights were cancelled on Saturday with Barcelona worst hit, where 226 cancellations affected an estimated 30,000 passengers. Iberia chartered fleets of coaches to move passengers to and from Madrid while Renfe put on extra trains between the capital and Barcelona.
Barcelona reopened along with some of the others at 10pm on Saturday while the remainder stayed closed into Sunday when around 100 more flights were cancelled. All airports were finally fully operational by 2am on Monday - but there was more to come.
Early on Tuesday, the airports on Tenerife and La Gomera, as well as in Badajoz on the Portuguese border were closed, although they re-opened around midday. However, the airports on La Palma and at Jerez remained closed to flights all day while Sevilla was non-operational from 6am to 7pm.
At 5.30pm on Tuesday, Málaga airport closed completely for the first time in its 70-year history. Until it reopened at 9pm, 30 flights were cancelled, bringing the total of cancellations of departures and arrivals to 74 for the day. As usual, flights to and from the UK accounted for the majority of these, leaving passengers stranded and seeking alternative flights.
Granada airport also closed on Tuesday evening adding to the total of more than 1,100 flights cancelled nationwide that day, the majority in Andalucía, according to Aena. Granada reopened at 2.00am on Wednesday along with Fuerteventura, La Palma and Jerez, and when Valencia returned to operations at 8.00am, Spain's airspace was fully open once again.
However, with further disruptions still possible, Aena urges travellers to confirm the status of their flight by calling their airline or Aena's information line (902 404 704 or 913 211 000).
Hotel apartment owners say they're getting raw deal
Regional law and hotel policy mean they have to pay to use their own homes
By Oliver McIntyre
PRIVATE owners of apartments at the Hotel La Barracuda in Torremolinos say they're getting a raw deal after a legal change has resulted in them having to pay to use their own units if they want to stay there for more than two months of the year.
But the hotel's management insists it is merely complying with the law and denies it is abusing owners' usage rights.
Apartment owner Gordon Westerdale says the situation came to a head at the last community meeting, on April 29, "when it was demanded of us that we hand over the keys to our property to the management for them to put their clients into our apartments."
Under the hotel's policy, he told Costa del Sol News, "all owners can use their apartments free of charge for only eight weeks per year but only between October 20 and June 3, excluding Christmas, New Year and Easter.
"If we want to use our own apartments outside of these dates we have to pay the hotel seven euros per night in low season, 17 euros per night in medium season and a massive 66 euros per night in high season, plus VAT, all to use our property which we have paid for and hold the title deeds to."
Not only does the new structure limit their usage rights, it has "literally rendered our property unsalable on the open market," said Mr Westerdale, who along with his wife has owned an apartment in the hotel since 1999.
The root of the problem is a 2004 law passed by the Junta de Andalucía, known as Decreto 47/2004, which in Article 6 states that all units within a hotel complex must be managed by a single entity - in other words, the hotel management.
For its part, the hotel insists it has created a fair structure for owners to use their units and that the main limitation is that, under the new law, they can no longer rent their units out themselves to third parties.
Management representative Silvia Deluchi told CDSN that that vast majority of owners do not live year-round at the hotel and that the fee structure essentially replaces the old system of monthly community fees. Regarding the steep high-season rate, she said there will be a "discount for those who want to live year-round in their apartment" - though the exact rate has yet to be established. She said the hotel's lawyers are studying individual situations on a case-by-case basis.
Spain is world's second noisiest country
Seven in 10 Spaniards suffer daily noise levels above WHO limits
By Oliver McIntyre
LOUD motorbikes, heavy construction equipment, throbbing nightclub music - there is little question that Spain is a noisy country; and now it's official. Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that Spain is the second noisiest country in the world, behind only Japan.
Further, seven out of 10 people in Spain suffer daily noise levels in excess of 70 decibels, compared to the 65 decibels considered acceptable by the WHO.
The country's excessive volume was denounced last week by the State Platform of Associations Against Noise (Peacram), which called the situation a breach of Spaniards' fundamental rights as established in the country's constitution as well under EU legislation and the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights. The group's comments came during last Wednesday's International Noise Awareness Day.
According to a study by Gaes Centros Auditivos, a hearing health care provider, 87 per cent of Spaniards feel they live in a noisy environment.
Málaga unemployment ten points above national rate
The city now has over 233,000 people on the dole
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA has the second-highest unemployment rate amongst Spain's provincial capitals. The first three months of 2010 showed an increase of 21,300 people in the city claiming benefits than in the same period last year.
Last Friday's data from the National Statistics Institute made grim reading for Málaga which showed the city had an unemployment rate of 30.02 per cent at the end of March, some ten points higher that the national figure. The city now has over 233,000 workers on the dole and is beaten only by Cádiz where 31.87 per cent are unemployed. Málaga's figures is 10.1 per cent up on the first quarter of 2009.
The high figures contribute to Andalucía's position as the second worst region in the country with 27.21 per cent unemployment and over a million claiming benefits. It is also the region which has shown the greatest increase in the number of those out of work in the last 12 months, up 14.49 per cent which equates to 136,800 individuals. The number in work fell by over three per cent in the same period.
Amongst other provinces in the region, unemployment has risen to 27.79 per cent in Almería and 26.89 per cent in Granada. Nationally, the INE gave the unemployment rate at the end of March as 20.05 per cent, the highest level since 1997. Over 4.6 million people are now without jobs in Spain, an increase of 700,000 in the last 12 months.
Reacting to last Friday's figures, Economy Minister Elena Salgado predicted that the unemployment rate would fall in the coming quarters. She said there were "more positive" signs of recovery and dismissed suggestions that the total out of work would hit five million.