News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Political flap over 'dumb' southern accent
Angry reactions follow criticism of health minister's Málaga style of speech
By Dave Jamieson
A FORMER Partido Popular (PP) mayor of Vélez-Málaga and his socialist successor have both reacted angrily to criticism of the health minister's accent. A political rival last week made offensive remarks about Trinidad Jiménez's Andalucían cadences on his internet blog.
The comments came from Juan Soler, a PP deputy and his party's spokesman in the Madrid Assembly. They followed an announcement from Sra Jiménez, who was born in Málaga in 1962, that she wants to be nominated as the socialist candidate to fight the sitting PP president of the Madrid region, Esperanza Aguirre, in next May's elections. Sr Soler wrote last Wednesday that, with her Andalucían accent, she was a "lightweight candidate" for Madrid who would be more appropriate "in Dos Hermanos or Vélez-Málaga."
Former Vélez mayor Francisco Delgado Bobilla, who is also the PP's mayoral candidate in next year's local elections, called on his party to take action against Juan Soler. "Such comments have no place in our democratic system," he said, adding that they belong in the past when insulting and humiliating Andalucíans was not uncommon. "Does one have to be from Madrid and have refined speech to be the president of the Madrid region?" he asked.
The present mayor of Vélez-Málaga, María Salomé Arroyo of the PSOE, said that the socialist group on the town council would put forward a motion at the council meeting on August 30 asking for the Madrid Assembly to reproach Sr Soler. She added she was indignant at the "humiliation suffered by local people."
The health minister herself said the comments showed an attitude of scorn for those who come "from outside" but that Madrid was cosmopolitan, open, welcoming and accommodated all identities. She added that 13 per cent of the region's population are immigrants, five points more than the Spanish average.
On Thursday, following these and other complaints about his comments, Juan Soler, who comes from Santander, apologised, saying it was "not done with bad intentions." In a new entry on his blog, he wrote, "I love Andalucía and Sevilla," and claimed that he "only" said that the Málaga accent of Trinidad Jiménez, "distances the average voter in Madrid."
Dismay over Guadalhorce road work delay
The route, an important link between the valley and the Costa del Sol, has been closed to traffic since 2009
By Oliver McIntyre
ALHAURÍN EL GRANDE town hall last week expressed dismay and concern at the delays in completing upgrade work on the A7053 road, which links Alhaurín and Coín with Fuengirola. In a motion approved by the town council, the town hall urged the Junta de Andalucía to speed up the work and complete it "as soon as possible."
"These works started in 2009, with a completion date in late 2010, but according to recent information published in the media the project has hit a new delay of at least four months, so it won't be done until 2011," said the councillor for public works, Gregorio Guerra.
"This road is an important link between the Guadalhorce valley and the Costa del Sol and serves as the main entrance for tourism into the valley - and it has been closed to traffic since 2009," he said.
Not only has the prolonged roadwork been a hit on tourism, it has exacerbated unemployment problems in the valley, said the councillor. The closure has "hurt many businesses, traders, and private individuals who used this road as their principal connection to the Costa del Sol," he said.
New radars to nab foreign speeders with pay-on-the-spot fines
By Oliver McIntyre
FOREIGN drivers caught speeding on Spanish roads will no longer be able to escape paying the fine just because they live outside the country or are difficult for authorities to track down.
The Traffic Department (DGT) has launched a new system for ensuring that foreign drivers caught by fixed radar devices are forced to pay on the spot.
The system involves radar equipment that can recognise foreign licence plates and automatically notify the nearest Guardia Civil patrol car, including a photograph of the speeding vehicle, explained Tráfico's deputy director, Federico Fernández, last week. The officers will then pull over the vehicle and fine the driver; those who cannot come up with the payment could face having their vehicle immobilised.
Essentially, the system means that in the case of foreign-plated vehicles the fixed radars will function as if they were mobile radars used by officers on the roadside, said Sr Fernández. The fine that is charged is technically a deposit, pending any possible appeal by the driver.
The foreign-plate-detecting radars have been installed on the AP7 in Castellón, the A31 in Alicante, the A52 in Zamora and the A7 in Murcia, said Sr Fernández. The sites were selected because they met all the necessary conditions for installing the equipment, but also because officials have detected that 30 per cent of infractions on these roads are committed in foreign-plated vehicles, increasing to 40 per cent in summer.
British woman on life support after explosion
A hot water heater pipe blew out a hotel wall on Monday injuring three passers-by
By David Eade
TWO sisters with their husbands were walking to the dining room for breakfast on Monday when suddenly an explosion blew out a wall just as they were passing by.
One of the women, from Weston-super-Mare, is critically ill in hospital whilst a British man and woman were injured and required hospital treatment.
The accident happened at the Cortijo Blanco Hotel in San Pedro de Alcántara which is popular with UK tour companies and was packed with Britons at the time. There was no fire just a loud bang on Monday at 9.35 as the water heater pipe exploded showering the trio - all guests at the hotel - with rubble and boiling water.
The British woman, named as Carol Gardner, aged 50, suffered injuries to her skull, multiple cuts, plus first and second degree burns to her chest and right arm covering between 15 and 20 per cent of her body.
Due to the seriousness of her injuries she was rushed to the Carlos Haya Hospital in Málaga. She is being kept in the intensive care unit on a life support machine.
Hiking guide falls to death at El Chorro
The experienced outdoorsman, 54, was swept over 10-metre waterfall
By Oliver McIntyre
A HIKING guide fell to his death last week while leading a group of around 20 people on a canyoning excursion in the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes gorge at El Chorro in Álora.
It is understood the 54-year-old local man was swept over a waterfall and fell at least 10 metres into the water below.
The 112 emergency service received the call at 5.45pm on Friday and rescue crews responded to the scene but the man was dead by the time they arrived. His body was trapped between some rocks below the waterfall.
It is unclear whether the man was swept over the falls due to the high water level and strong current or if he fell into the water after slipping on the wet rocks. An autopsy is being performed to determine if the cause of death was drowning or blunt trauma injuries sustained in the fall, said officials.
The victim, who lived in a small village in the area, had a strong familiarity with the zone and was experienced in outdoor activities including canyoning, which involves navigating canyons using a variety of techniques including hiking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, rope work and swimming. While he was reportedly leading the group of excursionists, officials did not specify if he was doing so in a professional capacity.
Royal support for zero emission cars
The vehicles have so far failed to spark the public's interest
By Dave Jamieson
QUEEN Sofia has been supporting Spain's ailing electric vehicle sector. She was pictured last week behind the wheel of a zero-emission battery-powered vehicle during the Royal family's annual holiday on Mallorca.
The government hopes her move will trigger a rise in popularity for electric cars which have so far failed to spark interest with the public. Prime Minister Zapatero set a target of 2,000 sales by the end of the year, but by July, only 16 vehicles had been bought (CDSN last week).
The car given the Royal runabout last week was a Peugeot iON which has a battery life of about 80 hours and an electric motor which delivers 47 kW (64 hp). It is a prototype of the model which will go on sale in December and the Queen described the test drive to have been "phenomenal."
The government wants electric vehicles to be at the centre of its green agenda and has promised to provide charging points in service stations and old phone boxes across the country. It is also offering a grant of up to 6,000 euros for each electric car purchased and has promised to invest 590 million euros to subsidise their production.
A statement from the car's manufacturer said, "It is a privilege for Peugeot to place this very first iON at the service of the Spanish Royal Family, known for their time-honoured enthusiasm for the environmental cause."
However, the Queen is reported to have made an error during her drive and crossed a solid white line on the road, an offence which carries a fine of up to 200 euros.
Cassirer versus Kingdom of Spain
A US citizen gets go-ahead to sue Spain and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation for family's stolen painting
By Dave Jamieson
A CALIFORNIA man last week got the go-ahead to take legal action against Spain to return a painting which he claims was stolen from his family during World War II.
The work by French impressionist Camille Pissarro ended up in the private collection of Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza who sold it to Spain in 1993.
Spanish lawyers argued that sovereign immunity protected the country from legal action in the US, but last week US District Judge Gary Feess rejected their demands to dismiss the case.
This has cleared the way for 89-year-old Claude Cassirer to sue Spain for the return of the painting.
Mr Cassirer claims that in 1939 Nazis confiscated the work from his grandmother, Lilly Cassirer, because she was from a wealthy Jewish family, after which she fled from France. She had inherited the work from her father-in-law who bought it in 1898.
The painting then passed through several hands until being bought in 1976 by the Swiss private collector Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza who in 1988 leased it and later sold it to Spain, along with his entire collection, for $327 million.
In 2000, when Mr Cassirer discovered that his grandmother's painting was on display in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, he wrote to the Spanish government asking for its return and claiming the painting had been taken in violation of international law. This was refused, as was a 2003 request from five members of the US Congress, so Mr Cassirer took the matter to the Californian courts in 2005.