News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Mijas to bus in thousands of cruise ship tourists
Deal will see 10,000 'cruisers' brought on tours to the Pueblo from Málaga port
By Oliver McIntyre
MIJAS HAS launched a scheme to bus in some 10,000 cruise ship tourists from Málaga port this year to boost the town's tourism revenues.
In a deal with travel agency Raytur, the town hall has agreed to pick up the cost of operating 10 buses to transport cruisers to Mijas Pueblo when ships call on the port.
"Mijas could not miss the opportunity to capture a high-spending sector of the tourism market such as cruisers, who this year will spend 36 million euros in the province as some 600,000 passengers arrive at Málaga port," said Mijas mayor Antonio Sánchez.
Local officials say that while an estimated 70 per cent of passengers contract side visits as part of their cruise package, the other 30 per cent do so once they've arrived at the port of call. "Thus the town hall's effort to promote Mijas at the Málaga terminal," said the mayor.
The Raytur office at the port will feature the Vive Mijas logo and will display brochures and tourist maps provided by the town hall. The town hall will also provide information on local events or activities - such as the town's Ruta de la Tapa - that coincide with the cruise ships' stay at the port, in order to "attract the tourists with the opportunity to enjoy food, shopping and sightseeing in the approximately three hours they will be in the Pueblo."
Nerja Greens fight for trees' survival
Residents are being asked to ‘adopt' trees under threat of being felled
By Dave Jamieson
A NEWLY formed ecology group in Nerja is inviting residents to adopt one of the trees under threat of being felled in Calle Chaparil. The town council last month announced a 155,000-euro pilot project to replace more than 100 of the trees with palms, ahead of a planned reformation of the zone.
The decision has prompted the formation of a branch of the Green Party in the town to fight for the survival of the trees, a species of the plane family, which they argue bring shade and oxygen to the area. The Greens' Nerja spokesman Antonio Puerta says the group will fight against what it sees as wastefulness in municipal policies.
"It is interesting that all coastal municipalities governed by the Partido Popular party have just planted palm trees," he observed. "Javier Arenas (the party's chairman in Andalucía) can perhaps explain why."
Over half the threatened trees now have a notice pinned to their trunks showing that they have been adopted by local people in protest at the town hall making "unilateral decisions of this magnitude without taking into account the opinion of citizens." A committee has been formed to develop a proposal for the future plant life of Calle Chaparil and the group says it is prepared to take its case to Madrid as a citizen protest.
Anyone wishing to support the campaign is invited to pin their photograph, name and DNI / NIE number to one of the trees, or to contact the Nerja Greens by email on LosVerdesDesdeNerja@ hotmail.com.
Irish criminal arrested over shooting of wanted British fugitive at local bar
By Oliver McIntyre
LESS THAN 48 hours after a British fugitive was shot to death outside a Mijas bar, Guardia Civil officers on Monday arrested an Irishman understood to have a previous criminal record.
Shortly after 10pm on Saturday Dan Smith, 24, was riddled with a hail of bullets outside The Lounge bar in the Riviera del Sol zone of Mijas Costa. The gunman fired at least six rounds from the back of a motorcycle before he and the driver sped away.
Mr Smith, who was wanted by British police in connection with an attempted gangland-style murder in 2007 near Chelmsford, Essex, died at the scene with three gunshot wounds to the face and head. A 061 ambulance was called but medics could do nothing to resuscitate the victim.
Drinkers at the bar described a nightmarish scene as the motorcycle pulled up and the shooter blasted Mr Smith, a former builder from Billericay, Essex.
Friends left flowers and notes at the scene of the shooting outside the bar, some of them addressed to 'Tall Dan'.
Witnesses reportedly told police that earlier in the evening Mr Smith had had rowed with an Irishman in the bar.
Fewer Blue Flag beaches for the Costa this year
Fuengirola is the provincial leader with seven flags
By Oliver McIntyre
TWENTY-ONE beaches in Málaga province will fly the quality-conferring Blue Flag this summer, two less than last year. The province drops out of first-place in Andalucía for the number of Blue Flag beaches, coming in second behind Cádiz, which has been awarded 24 flags this year, up from 21 last year.
The Blue Flags, awarded by the Foundation for Environment Education (FEE), were announced last week by its Spanish affiliate, Adeac.
Algarrobo, Torrox and Málaga city each lost the single Blue Flag they had been awarded last year, while Benalmádena dropped from two flags in 2009 (Malapesquera and Arroyo de la Miel beaches) to one this year, at Carvajal beach. Estepona lost one of its three flags - at El Padrón beach - but retained the distinction at La Rada and El Cristo beaches.
Vélez-Málaga, which had no Blue Flag beaches last summer, has been awarded one flag this year, at Benajarafe beach. Nerja has seen an upgrade as well, jumping from two flags last year (Torrecilla and Burriana) to four this year with Maro and Playazo beaches winning the distinction.
Both Fuengirola and Marbella retain the same number of flags as last year, on the same beaches. Fuengirola is the provincial leader with seven flags, at Los Boliches-Las Gaviotas; Torreblanca; Carvajal; Santa Amalia; El Castillo; Fuengirola; and San Francisco. In Marbella, Blue Flags will be unfurled once again over the beaches at Cabopino, Venus-Bajadilla, Casablanca, and Guadalmina-San Pedro.
Top gangster seized in Marbella
Alexander Kalashov is being held in a Madrid jail awaiting his extradition hearing
By David Eade
SPANISH Police officers from the drugs and organised crime squad detained Alexander Kalashov in Marbella on Sunday. He is believed to be the leader of the mafia in his native country Georgia and was arrested on an international extradition warrant.
The National Police moved in on the criminal, known as the "invisible man", on Sunday afternoon, stopping his car as he drove through Marbella. He did not resist arrest.
Kalashov had been released by a Spanish court on March 2 this year on 300,000 euros bail but is now in jail in Madrid pending his extradition hearing.
The Spanish High Court has sentenced the Georgian to seven and a half years behind bars for his part in operation Avispa involving money laundering. He also has to pay massive fines along with the other five people involved, but was found not guilty of illicit association.
As part of his sentence the court ruled that Kalashov should be expelled from Spain should he be granted third grade status (which would have allowed him to spend time outside of the prison) or given early release. He has been banned from returning to Spain for ten years.
The prosecutor described Kalashov as "the king of thieves", and an important mafia boss. This view is shared not just by the Spanish police but also by their counterparts in Israel, France , Italy, USA and Russia.
In addition to the money laundering charges he is believed to have been involved in drugs and arms trafficking, ordering assassinations, extortion, dealing in contraband and controlling the major casinos in Russia. Kalashov was arrested in May 2006 in Dubai months after operation Avispa was set in place along with 28 other people, 22 of them gang bosses in the former USSR.
The courts blocked over 800 bank accounts in 42 different banks and seized large amounts of cash. Now it is anticipated that instead of being jailed in Spain he will be returned to Georgia to face justice there.
Drowning prompts calls for year-round lifeguards
Last week's victim was the fourth in the province already this year
By Dave Jamieson
THERE HAS been a call for lifeguards to be present on the province's beach throughout the whole year after a fourth person drowned in the sea last week. The latest victim was a 78-year-old German whose body was recovered off the coast of Algarrobo last Thursday.
Summer on the Costa del Sol officially begins next Tuesday, June 15, and continues until September 15, during which time the Environment Ministry makes it obligatory for town halls to have lifeguards on beaches. Until then, only the city of Málaga, where municipal lifeguards work at weekends, and the town of Vélez-Málaga, where they began work last week, have had the safety measure in place. However, the recent good weather with temperatures topping 30 degrees on several days has brought a rush to the beaches, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.
Last week, there were calls for change. The president of the Association of Beach Businesses Manuel Villafaina said that lifeguards should be there all year, although with a lesser presence in winter, while José Carlos Escribano of the Costa del Sol Association of Hoteliers said that being a tourist destination of quality implied that beaches should be safe. The president of the Andaluz Rescue and Life-Saving Federation, Juan José Maspons, acknowledged that town halls were only obliged to provide life-guards for the three peak months but added that visitors use beaches every month. "We are talking about lives," he added.
Jumping Jimmy gives Spain a Eurovision encore
By Dave Jamieson
SPAIN ended up singing twice and ending 15th amongst the 25 finalists in last weekend's Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo. The performance was an improvement on 2009 when the country came last, a distinction reserved this year for the UK.
However, Spain may have created a new Eurovision first by being allowed to sing their entry twice. During the first performance of Algo Pequeñito by Daniel Diges, the singer and dancers were joined on the stage by a member of the audience who danced alongside them. He was there for several moments until security guards came on from the wings, at which point he tried to escape back into the audience.
The unscheduled performer turned out to be Jaume Marquet Cot, a 36-year-old Barcelona estate agent who is better known as Jumping Jimmy and is notorious for his invasion of major sporting events. During the Euro 2004 final between Greece and Portugal, he threw an FC Barcelona flag at Luis Figo, the Portuguese captain, who had just quit Barca to join arch-rivals Real Madrid. He also ran through the starting grid at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2004 and, amongst several other incidents, appeared on the pitch during the England v South Africa Rugby World Cup Final in 2007.
After being detained at the Contest venue on Saturday night, Jumping Jimmy was taken to a local police station where he was formally arrested. He was released on Sunday afternoon after paying a fine of 15,000 Norwegian kroner (about 1,880 euros).
Fitch downgrades Spain's credit rating
A 'hot' summer ahead if unions and government can't agree on labour reforms this week
By David Eade
THE INTERNATIONAL rating agency Fitch downgraded Spain's credit rating last Friday which sparked a drop in the euro although it recovered on Monday.
Fitch cut Spain's credit rating by one notch to AA-plus, saying the country's economic recovery will be "more muted" than the government forecast, due to its austerity measures.
However Spain may not be alone as France admitted keeping its top credit rating may be a stretch without tough budget cuts.
In May the euro saw a hefty 7.7 percent drop against the dollar over fears that Greece's debt crisis will spread to other countries in the euro zone. The decline is the euro's sixth straight monthly fall and its biggest percentage drop since January 2009.
Meanwhile on Monday the Spanish daily El País reported the government has given up on securing a deal with unions and employers on a reform of rigid labour market rules and is preparing to impose its own plan.
Monday was deadline day for the government to agree a labour reform deal with unions and employers but on Saturday the Ministry of Labour stated it had extended it by a week.
Taxi driver rip-off
Study finds 523 faults after making 193 journeys
By Tom Cain
A STUDY carried out by the users and consumers organisation, OCU, into malpractice by taxi drivers has found that out of 193 journeys made by researchers in 13 towns and cities across Spain taxi drivers committed 523 faults.
Some of the cities and towns in the study included Alicante, Barcelona, Sevilla, Madrid and Valencia.
OCU says that the common faults being committed by taxi drivers include not taking customers on a direct route to their destinations, not having a list of charges visible and not displaying their taxi drivers licence.
A spokesman said the researchers took short, medium and long trips in taxis, each time taking into account local regulations.
The overall findings of the OCU study found that the common malpractices employed by taxi drivers have not improved since the last study was carried out in 2001 and that in general the public in some places was being unfairly charged.
An OCU spokesman said that anyone using a taxi should make sure that the metre is clearly visible as well as the drivers licence and credentials. They should also be able to see the tariffs clearly and make sure the driver understands the route to be taken.
At the end of the journey they should ask for a receipt and make sure it is complete.
If they are not satisfied they should ask for the Libro de Reclamaciones (complaint book) which every driver is obliged to carry.
The OCU report has been met with anger by taxi drivers associations and they are preparing to take legal action against the consumer group for damaging their good name.