Costa del Sol News - 10th December 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Ken Loach honoured at Ronda film festival

British director given ‘Goyesca de Honor' for his social relevance of his body of work

By David Eade

MANY major names attended Ronda's first political film festival held all last week at the Convento de Santo Domingo conference centre, including Spain's internationally famous campaigning judge Baltasar Garzón. Yet pride of place went to the veteran British film director Ken Loach, who received a special ‘Goyesca de Honor' for his life's work at this cutting edge of socially orientated cinema.

Loach is renowned for the social commentary implicit in his films. He received his ‘Goyesca' last Friday evening from his collaborator, screenwriter Paul Laverty. A number of films on which they have worked together were shown over the week.

Amongst the Loach films shown was his latest, Route Irish, the story of two young Irishmen who decide to go to Iraq as part of a security team earning 10,000 pounds tax-free a month. One of the lads, Frankie, dies in Iraq and his friend Fergus returns to Liverpool and, angered by the cover up of his death, starts his own investigation. Loach was on hand with Laverty to talk to the audience about this film and other shown during the festival.

The festival, which featured 10 films amongst its official entries, attracted large audiences. Over 200 university students and 700 pupils studying for their Bachillerato attended the various screenings and sessions along with members of the public.

The fledgling Ronda festival has now been linked with the festival of political cinema in Buenos Aires, which will be held next March. The director of the first Ronda event, Piluca Baquero, says the aim is to promote synergies between the two festivals and not to compete. The Ronda festival is the first of its kind in Europe and the event in Buenos Aires will be the first in South America.

Timbuktu charity quad ride turns extreme

Two expat women finally back in Alhaurín after gruelling adventure

By Oliver McIntyre

TWO expat British women who embarked on a charity quad-bike ride from Alhaurín el Grande to Timbuktu in western Africa have made it home - but just barely. 

When grandmother Margo Dalby, 60, and forty-three-year-old mother of three Katrina Smith set off from Alhaurín on October 9, they knew they were in for a tough and even potentially dangerous ride but had no way to imagine the "horrendous journey" that awaited them.

After riding 1,200 kilometres - much of it through pouring rain - the women were stranded in the Western Sahara city of Dakla when their quad bikes broke down. After debating the best course of action - return home or forge ahead however possible - the pair decided to leave the quads behind and push on. 

What followed was a white-knuckle adventure by bus, car and shear will. Along the way, at times fearing for their personal safety, the women say they were spit at in the street, bullied for money and intimidated by police or customs agents seeking bribes - which they steadfastly refused to pay.

The women finally made it to Timbuktu in Mali on November 1.  But that still left the trip home - which proved no less eventful.

After being reunited with their quad bikes in Western Sahara, they soon found themselves caught in the chaos of last month's violent clashes between the Moroccan military and protesters in the disputed territory. They barely had enough petrol to make their way out of the conflict zone and across the Moroccan border. 

Town hall defends its handling of animal shelter case

Affected pet owners band together to file suit against the shelter

By Oliver McIntyre

TORREMOLINOS town hall last week defended its handling of the situation at the Parque Animal shelter following the arrest of the centre's director on animal abuse charges.

In a written statement, the town hall said that on November 18 it received an official report from the Guardia Civil regarding the alleged irregularities in the centre's euthanizing procedures, and the following day it temporarily suspended the shelter's contract to operate as the municipal pound.  Days later, on November 23, it opened sanction proceedings against the centre and hired a veterinarian to care for the animals remaining in the shelter.  On November 24 the shelter's contract was definitively cancelled, and the town hall contracted the Paraíso shelter in Alhaurin de la Torre to serve as the municipal pound.

On Monday and Tuesday of last week all of the animals remaining at Parque Animal were transferred to the Paraíso shelter.

On the same day the town hall issued its statement, Guardia Civil officers discovered around 20 additional dead animals in freezers at Parque Animal, and are investigating the circumstances of their deaths. 


Controllers' wildcat strike strands thousands; holiday threat lingers

By Dave Jamieson

AS AIR travel returned to normal following last weekend's wildcat action by air traffic controllers, the country braced its self for the next round of travel chaos.  Airport ground workers and airline pilots plan industrial action causing further disruption later this month or in January. 

Hundreds of thousands of travellers were stranded when around 70 per cent of the country's air traffic controllers called in sick on Friday evening, forcing the closure of most of Spanish airspace.  The government brought in the military to help as the airports at Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza closed, causing a massive knock-on effect elsewhere.  Planes stacked above Madrid Barajas were allowed to land, although some were diverted, while others had been taxiing towards the runway when they were ordered back to the terminal.  Over half a million people's plans for holiday weekend travel were thrown into chaos across the country.

Controllers throughout Andalucía were reported to be working normally but around 20 flights in and out of Málaga were cancelled or delayed on Friday, and another 174 on Saturday.  Renfe immediately made extra seats available on the AVE high speed trains between Málaga and Madrid. 

The air traffic controllers' unauthorised action came after a lengthy dispute with airports operator Aena over working hours and conditions, and immediately after the government approved the privatisation plans in the sector.  At noon on Saturday, a 15-day State of Alert was declared by the government, forcing the controllers to return to work or face charges under the Spanish military penal code.  By 3.30pm, most air space was reopened as airlines struggled to reorganise their fleets and schedules.

Bank manager thwarts thief by locking herself in safe

Armed robber and his accomplices flee with no loot

By Oliver McIntyre

A QUICK-THINKING bank manager in Alhaurín de la Torre thwarted an armed thief by locking herself in the bank's walk-in safe.

The incident occurred last Thursday when the man entered the Unicaja branch in Avenida Gran Canaria and pointed a gun at the manager, who was alone in the bank at that hour, said officials.  She told him the money was inside the safe and went in to get it, but quickly closed the heavy safe door behind her.

The local police had received an alert from the bank's central alarm system and raced to the scene.  By the time they arrived, the thief had fled - with no loot - along with three accomplices who had been waiting for him outside the bank.

Witnesses saw the hooded thief and one of the other men flee on foot toward El Peñon, while the other two sped off in a late model black Volkswagen, likely picking up the two men on foot down the road. 

PSOE punished in CataluÑa elections

Centre-right Catalan nationalist party retakes control of region

By David Eade

IN A BLOW  to Spain's ruling socialists (PSOE), the party suffered a punishing defeat in the Cataluña regional elections on Sunday as the centre-right Catalan nationalist party Convérgenci i Unió surged back into power after seven years in opposition.  

Not only did the Catalan socialists (known as PSC but linked to PSOE) take a beating, but the Partido Popular - long a relative also-ran in Cataluña - made a strong showing, becoming the third-strongest party in the regional parliament.

Although Catalán regional politics are quite unique, the ousting of PSC from power in the region is viewed by many as an indication that the socialists could suffer in next year's regional and municipal elections as well as in the general election in 2012.   

Catalan voters gave 62 seats to the moderate nationalist party CiU led by Arturo Mas, six short of an outright majority in the 135-seat parliament. In contrast the PSC ended up with just 28 seats, down from 37. It is the worst result in the 32-year history of the PSC, which has ruled the wealthy north-eastern region since 2003 as the leader in a three-party coalition. The head of the PSC, José Montilla announced his immediate resignation.

Cataluña has traditionally been Spain's economic engine but in 2009 Madrid for the first time accounted for the biggest share of Spanish economic output, 18.71 percent, just ahead of Cataluña's 18.68 percent. Being overtaken by Madrid has hurt regional pride in Cataluña, where a sizeable minority would like to see the region, which has its own language and distinct culture, break away from Spain. A recent poll by the CEO institute showed that unemployment was the main concern for 40 percent of Catalans.

The moderate nationalist CiU, which held power for 23 years until 2003, is also benefiting from anger over changes to a charter approved by the Spanish parliament in 2006 which gave Cataluña sweeping powers. Spain's Constitutional Court in June struck down several articles of the charter that expanded the already significant powers of self rule of the Catalan government, sparking mass protests in the region.

Regionalist fervour also saw the entrance into the parliament of a small separatist party led by former Barcelona Football Club president Joan Laporta, whose Solidaridat Catalana party won four seats. 

Outcry over olive oil labelling fraud

Consumer group calls for officials to name the brands involved

By Oliver McIntyre

FOLLOWING the detection of fraudulent labelling on olive oil, a consumer group has called for Junta de Andalucía officials to make public the offending brands.

Junta de Andalucía inspectors tested 50 lots of oil after suspicions were raised by the relatively low prices for certain brands of extra virgin and virgin olive oil.  The inspection campaign - carried out at small shops as well as large supermarkets - remains underway but preliminary results showed that 24 of the 50 samples contained oil of an inferior grade to what was indicated on the label.

Such labelling fraud can bring fines ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 euros.

Consumer watchdog Facua has called on the Junta to name names, saying that not doing so is damaging to the industry as a whole. "With this information, in which the brands committing the fraud are not identified, suspicion is cast over the entire olive oil sector, confusing consumers and possibly causing major damage to all the [legitimate brands]," said Facua's Andalucía president and national spokesperson, Rubén Sánchez.

Ambassador meets with Junta on illegal homes issue

Regional government says solutions lie mainly with local PGOUs

By Oliver McIntyre

THE British ambassador to Spain, Giles Paxman, met last week with Junta de Andalucía officials to discuss the illegal homes issue that is affecting many Britons in Andalucía, as well as elsewhere in Spain.

The regional minister for public works and housing, Josefina Cruz, told Ambassador Paxman that the Junta is working in collaboration with local town halls in affected municipalities to provide information to homeowners and to seek solutions. 

She stressed that the "normalisation" of the situation in many cases will come through updates and modifications to local development plans (PGOUs) - which include land-use classifications - and that the Junta will continue working with town halls to streamline the process of updating their PGOUs.

Sra Cruz also told the ambassador that the creation of detailed inventories by the town halls will be key in examining the illegal homes issue and seeking solutions where possible.

Ambassador Paxman urged that this work be carried out as quickly as possible.

The meeting with Junta officials, which also included a sit-down with the regional president, José Antonio Griñán, was the latest in a series of encounters the ambassador has been holding with regional and local officials as well as Spanish ministers regarding the illegal homes issue, and Embassy spokesperson told Costa del Sol News.