Costa del Sol News - 19th November 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Last-ditch effort against Costa gas exploration

Environmentalists submit report questioning emergency preparedness

By Oliver McIntyre

THE environmental group Ecologistas en Acción has launched a last-ditch effort to halt Repsol-YPF's planned exploration for gas off the coast of Mijas and Fuengirola. 

The group has submitted to the Environment Ministry - which is currently reviewing the scheme for final sign-off - a report stating that the Repsol's project plan lacks sufficient emergency preparedness provisions. It says the plan does not state the number of personnel needed to respond to an emergency situation, and does not detail the amount of fuel that will be held on the exploration platform, which will be located less than 10 kilometres off of point Calaburras in Mijas.

The so-called Siroco exploration is scheduled to get underway as early as January assuming the Environment Ministry gives it final approval.  If the results are positive, it is understood commercial extraction could begin by sometime in 2013. 

The environmentalists say they do not understand how the government can allow the gas exploration - let alone a full-blown extraction operation - in a zone bordered by a section of the sea in Calahonda considered an EU site of community interest (LIC) for its ecological value.  Indeed, they say, an already proposed extension of the LIC would take it "right to the same area where the exploration is to take place." 

Foundation to breathe new life into English Cemetery

Fundraising efforts will support daily operations as well as major improvements

By Oliver McIntyre

SINCE 1904 the English Cemetery in Málaga has had no regular funding from the UK government, and the decades of insufficient resources have resulted in a major deterioration of the site.  But that is about to change with the launch of a new foundation aimed at preserving and maintaining the historic cemetery, which was created in 1831 as the first official burial ground for Protestants in Spain. 

After a four-year bureaucratic process, former British consul in Málaga Bruce McIntyre has finally managed to get the English Cemetery Foundation officially registered and recognised as the managing body of the cemetery.  This means the group can now begin fundraising efforts to bring in money not only for the day-to-day operations of the cemetery but also much needed repairs and improvements. 

Among other things, the foundation plans to launch a Friends of the English Cemetery programme to bring in regular donations from individuals.  It is also putting together a presentation to approach potential private and institutional partners interested in becoming involved in supporting the cemetery.

Further, it plans to advertise a number of niches that are still available at the cemetery for interment of ashes.

The foundation's first and most immediate priority will be the day-to-day running of the cemetery including basic maintenance and gardening, with an estimated annual cost of around 15,000 euros, Mr McIntyre told Costa del Sol News. But much more funding will be necessary to take on other high-priority projects such as repairing or replacing some of the cemetery walls, which are "leaning dangerously," and installing retaining walls inside the cemetery itself. 


Torremolinos shelter accused of slow, painful death of euthanized cats and dogs

By Oliver McIntyre

THE director of the Parque Animal shelter and pound in Torremolinos was arrested last week on charges of animal abuse surrounding irregularities in the centre's process of euthanizing and disposing of animals. 

The facility allegedly cut expenses by using "very low doses" in its lethal injections, forcing hundreds of animals to suffer a slow, agonising death, according to the Guardia Civil's Seprona environmental unit.  

Two other centre staff members, including a veterinarian, were also arrested, and another vet was named as a suspect but not detained.  The three arrested individuals were charged and released pending trial.

Guardia Civil officials believe the irregularities occurred over a two-year period during which the shelter put down a total of 2,230 animals without proper veterinary controls.  Further, it is alleged the centre illegally disposed of dead animals at the local rubbish tip rather than having them incinerated as required by law.

MAlaga on drugs alert after overdose deaths

Authorities warn of possible batch of adulterated cocaine or heroine

By Dave Jamieson

A POLICE investigation has opened in Málaga after eight drugs-related deaths in the city so far this month.  Four of the deaths were recorded during last week alone, triggering suggestions that an adulterated batch of drugs has been circulating. 

All the victims have been men aged between 35 and 45, and they include a 41-year-old Briton who died in Torre del Mar after what is believed to be an adverse reaction to a mix of alcohol and cocaine.  Another was a Spanish citizen found dead in the passenger seat of a car in the Carranque district of Málaga, where police discovered a syringe next to the body.  A Spanish man of around 40 was found dead in his house in the city after his family grew concerned they had not heard from him, while another man, also around 40, was found dead in a city street. On Friday, a 45-year-old man died at his home in the city's El Torcal district, apparently also after an adverse reaction.

The number of incidents in the last fortnight is extremely high when compared with last February, regarded as one of the worst months in recent years, when six drugs-related deaths were recorded in the entire province, not just in its capital city.  The level has alarmed authorities, especially as not all the victims were classed as addicts or as being drug-dependent, with some leading apparently normal lives.

Costa offers no safe hideout for wanted criminals

National Police have arrested 161 foreign fugitives so far this year

By David Eade

THE Costa del Sol used to be viewed as a safe haven for British and other European criminals. No longer, because the organised crime and drugs unit of the National Police (Udyco) is now hunting fugitives sought in their home countries as well as cracking down on drug trafficking - one of the main sources of funding for these criminals.

Since January 1 Udyco has arrested 250 criminals. Of that total 161 were foreign nationals who were on the run from justice in their own country. In 2008 and 2009, a large portion of such arrests in Málaga province were of foreign criminals hiding out from their own police forces. Last year there were 260 arrests, of which 63 per cent were non-Spanish, including 80 individuals who were subjects of extradition warrants.

The percentage of foreign criminals arrested by Udyco has steadily increased from 57 per cent in 2008 to 64 per cent so far in 2010. Between January and October of this year 161 criminals have been detained on the basis of extradition or European find and capture warrants.

A spokesperson for the Comisaría Provincial in Málaga stated: "We want a clean Costa del Sol and this includes those criminals who have committed crimes in other countries.

New penal codes cracks down on major crimes

Tougher sentencing for serious offences, but softer penalties for minor ones

By David Eade

SPAIN´S new penal code comes into force on December 23 with the spotlight on terrorism, organised crime, corruption and sexual offences against children under 13 years.

New key crimes to be introduced are piracy at sea, harassment in the real estate market, trafficking in human organs and illegal immigration networks.

Other, more minor offences find the penalties softened. These include drug possession for self consumption, driving offences or the selling of counterfeit goods at markets or in the streets. There are also new punishments in addition to the traditional mix of prison and fines, with probation, or restricted movement, and the extension to five years for some custodial offences to be enacted.

The reforms were driven by a need to meet international standards but in the event they have gone further than that. The dean of Málaga's college of judges, José María Páez: says "we are virtually talking about a new code."

Just one example is organised crime, where a distinction is drawn between the constituting, direction and coordination of such groups and the participation in them. The first will carry a maximum jail term of up to eight years whilst the second a maximum of five. However, consideration will also be given to whether the gangs are large, or use dangerous weapons or the latest technologies, which can increase the jail terms.

Spanish ‘pirates' are marauding the internet

Illegal downloading reaches new high at 5.2 billion euros in first half of 2010

By Oliver McIntyre

SPANISH consumers downloaded some 5.2 billion euros's worth of ‘pirated' movies, games, music and other content from the internet in the first half of this year, a record high and more than triple the 1.6 billion euros of legally purchased content, according to a new study.

The study, commissioned by Spain's Coalition of Creators, an industry group representing intellectual property rights managers, showed that pirating accounted for 77 per cent of all downloading in Spain. The hardest-hit industry was music, with 98 per cent of all downloaded songs unpaid for. 

Pirating accounted for 77 per cent of all movie downloads, 61 per cent of videogame downloads and 35 per cent of downloaded books.  While the figure for books was lowest, it showed the steepest increase, up from 19 per cent during the previous six months. 

"The situation is getting worse and the level of pirating is alarming," said Aldo Olcese, president of the Coalition of Creators. He called for the creation of an inter-industry pact for good governance on the Web, saying, "Telecommunications companies, search engines and content creators should all be on the same side of the table to better achieve the development of the information society, along with users."

Perhaps the most positive note of the study was its finding that 60 per cent of Spaniards surveyed said they would be willing to pay for content on the internet - up from 50 per cent in the second half of 2009.

Mobile operators face fines over credit snatching

Companies swallow remaining balance of pre-pay customers who don't top up their credit

By Oliver McIntyre

AT LEAST two mobile phone operators are facing possible fines for their practice of cancelling the pre-pay phones of customers who do not top up their credit within a specified timeline, and pocketing the unused balance.

Consumer authorities in Madrid and Andalucía have opened sanction proceedings against Movistar and Vodafone, respectively, for the practice, which was denounced a year ago by the consumer watchdog Facua.

In October of last year Facua filed complaints against Movistar, Vodafone and Orange for snatching the unused balance of pay-as-you-go customers who did not top up their credit within seven months in the case of Movistar, 10 months with Vodafone or 14 months at Orange.

While pleased to see moves now being taken against two of the companies, the consumer group has sharply criticised the way authorities have handled the case and the long delay in taking action.