Costa del Sol News - 31st December 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

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

AlhaurIn stages silent demo after Retamar death

María López died when her car drove off the end of an unfinished road during a torrential downpour a week before Christmas

By Dave Jamieson

A SILENT demonstration was held in Alhaurín de la Torre on Monday evening following the road accident in the Retamar area a week before Christmas.

María López Pérez lost her life when the car she was travelling in drove off the end of an unfinished road and plunged eight metres to the ground. It is alleged that there was no road sign either at the entrance to the road or at its end to warn of the danger ahead.

The Federation of Alhaurín Residents called for a massive turnout to clarify that they want transparency, collaboration and responsibility in the enquiry into the incident, and to show their condolences to and solidarity with the victim's family. They have demanded the maximum punishment for whoever is found responsible for the accident.

Opposition PSOE and IU councillors have already criticised the PP-controlled town council for refusing to debate the issue, while Antonio Ponce who lost his mother in the accident was also critical of the controlling group.

Spain goes smoke-free on Sunday

Toughened ban will stub out smoking in all enclosed public spaces

By Dave Jamieson

SMOKERS have just days left to light up their final cigarettes in bars and restaurants as Spain's toughened smoking ban becomes effective on January 2.  Deputies last week gave final approval by 189 votes to 154 to amendments to laws which were first introduced five years ago.

From Sunday, smoking will be completely prohibited in all enclosed public spaces, including bars, restaurants, discos, casinos and bingo halls.  Smoking areas in stations and airports, which were demanded by opposition deputies, will not be allowed.  The changes will make Spain one of the world's most restrictive countries for tobacco users.

The new legislation says that smoking will be legal on terraces, which it defines as having a maximum of two walls and a roof.  However, it will be prohibited inside hospitals and health centres, as well as at their entrances, and will be banned inside the perimeters of school grounds and children's play areas.  Taxi and train passengers will not be allowed to light up, while smoking will also be prohibited on tour coaches, including sightseeing buses which have an open top deck. 

Hotels can reserve up to 30 per cent of rooms for smokers while smoking will be permitted in open-air areas of sports stadiums and bullrings.  Psychiatric hospitals and prisons will be exempt from the law, as will outdoor areas of universities.

120,000 foreign residents could vote for first time

April 15 is deadline for registered residents to sign onto voter rolls

By Oliver McIntyre

MORE THAN 120,000 foreign residents in Málaga province could vote for the first time in the municipal elections scheduled for May 2011, according to data presented last week by officials. 

The vast majority of the potential new foreign voters - 113,000 of them - are EU citizens while the other 7,400 are from non-EU countries that have specific voting agreements with Spain, according to the figures presented by the government sub-delegate in Málaga, Hilario López Luna, and the provincial delegate for the Electoral Census Office, Antonio Requena.

There are currently 145,052 adult foreign EU citizens registered as residents (‘empadronado') at their local town hall, meaning they are eligible to vote in municipal elections.  But to do so they must sign on to the electoral census, which 35,740 have done - including 32,000 that had already done so ahead of 2007 municipal elections. 

Foreign EU citizens who are registered residents can confirm at their local town hall whether they are on the voter roll, and if not can sign on to it.  The deadline for changes to the electoral census is April 11.

For the 7,400 non-EU foreigners who are eligible first-time voters - including citizens of Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay and Peru - the deadline for signing on to the electoral census is January 15.

Investigation opened into infant's death

Mother has filed criminal complaints against three doctors

By Oliver McIntyre

THE PROSECUTOR'S office has opened an investigation into the death of a two-year-old Cártama girl who died of a blood infection after being sent home from the emergency room three times in 48 hours. 

The girl's mother first took her to the local health centre on October 15 with symptoms of diarrhoea and nausea, and she was sent home with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis and a prescription for rehydration via oral solution. 

But nearly a month later the symptoms resurfaced and on November 10 she went again to the health centre, with the same result.  On the morning of November 12 the mother took the girl to Hospital Materno in Málaga, where she got the same diagnosis again and was sent away with the same water-and-solution prescription, she says.  Later that afternoon the girl got a fever and the mother took her again to the local health centre but was yet again sent home, she says; however, Guadalhorce health district authorities reportedly dispute this, saying the doctor told her to take the girl to Hospital Materno. 

The woman says she requested that an ambulance take the girl from the health centre to Materno, but was denied - again, the health district disputes this point, indicating that the doctor says he received no such request from the woman.


Widespread outrage over 10 per cent increase in electricity prices

By Dave Jamieson

MILLIONS of homes in Spain will pay more for electricity and gas from January 1, and consumer groups have lashed out at what they consider a shocking rate hike. 

The government announced on Monday that the TUR tariff, which supplies up to 10 kilowatts of power, will increase by 9.8 per cent, while natural gas prices will rise an average of 3.93 per cent.

An estimated 17 million homes and small businesses will be hit by the rise in electricity prices which the Industry Ministry said was justified by higher fossil fuel prices - liquefied natural gas is the main source of power in Spain - and the falling value of the euro against the US dollar.  It added that the move was in line with similar recent increases in other European countries but it is the highest percentage rise in price since liberalisation of Spain's power market in 1997.

The Secretary of State for Energy, Pedro Marín, said the increase would raise the average monthly power bill by 3.20 euros although the OCU Consumers and Users Group estimated the figure at 4.25 euros per month.  During 2010, electricity prices in Spain rose by 2.65 per cent in January and by a further 4.8 per cent in October.

Consumer groups reacted with outrage to the nearly 10 per cent increase on electricity prices, calling it unfair and abusive, and launching letter-writing and signature-collection campaigns against the measure.  They say that not only households but also the self-employed and small businesses will suffer.

One of UK's 'most wanted' arrested in Mijas

By Oliver McIntyre

ONE OF the UK's most-wanted criminals has been arrested in a Mijas Costa bar.

The UK crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers last week confirmed that 61-year-old Dennis Patrick O'Brien, wanted on drug charges, was arrested a week ago Saturday at the Trafalgar Bar in Calahonda.

"The arrest was part of an ongoing operation by the Spanish National Police and the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency targeting bars in the region which are known to be regular haunts of criminals," said Crimestoppers in a press release. It is understood two other Britons were also arrested, one of whom was wanted by France on drug charges.

Mr O'Brien was first featured in one of Crimestopper's Operation Captura appeals in December 2007. He was wanted on a European arrest warrant originally issued in 2006 by Merseyside Police and faces prosecution for conspiracy to supply cocaine with a street value of over £166 million.

Lord Ashcroft KCMG, Founder and Chair of Crimestoppers, called the arrest "yet another superb result for Operation Captura," which, in collaboration with SOCA and Spanish authorities, targets wanted UK criminals believed to be hiding on the Costas. "This arrest now brings the total of those wanted down to 12 out of an original 50 appeals," he said. "Fugitives can run, but they can't hide forever."

Police push for safer Christmas holidays

A festive season campaign launched last week gives helpful tips and reminders to boost security over the holiday period

By Oliver McIntyre

THE NATIONAL  Police and Guardia Civil have launched a campaign aimed at boosting safety and security during the Christmas holidays. The plan has more than 60,000 officers showing a strong presence in shopping zones and other areas that attract large crowds during the festive period, but it also includes helpful tips and advice for members of the public - as well as an emotional plea for drivers to be safe on the roads.

Among a series of recommendations offered last week was a tip aimed at preventing children getting lost in busy commercial or leisure zones or at large public events. In addition to always keeping a sharp eye on the kids, officials say parents should write their own mobile phone number on their child's arm so that they can be located immediately in the event that the child gets lost.

They also recommend that young children be taught their name, address and telephone number, as well as to never get into a car or go anywhere with a stranger.

Apart from protecting children, all members of the public must be careful to protect their own purse or wallet, say officials. This includes not only watching out for pickpockets and bag-snatchers but also being alert to possible scams. No one should take money out of the bank at the behest of a stranger, no matter how great an offer they seem to be presenting, say police officials.

Shoppers should also avoid making online purchases other than through websites they are confident are legitimate, and should never give out personal data to unknown entities. And they should always confirm that the charges on their bank cards match their purchases.

Those leaving home for the holidays are urged to make the house appear occupied by leaving blinds partly up and using timers to periodically turn on lights and the television or radio.

And for drivers, the Traffic Department is urging safety both through its usual holiday-period alcohol-testing campaign, and through a series of television and radio ads appealing to people's emotions. The ads feature loved ones - a wife or children, for example - waiting and waiting for the driver who never arrives. The voiceover says that by speeding or drink driving, you could "make someone wait for you for the rest of their life."

New Valencia line makes Spain a high-speed leader

The new service was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos

By Dave Jamieson

THE NEW stretch of AVE rail tracks to Valencia opened by King Juan Carlos on Saturday gives Spain more kilometres of high-speed railways than either France or Japan. The journey time from Madrid to Valencia has been more than halved, from three hours 25 minutes to just 95 minutes, with trains travelling at 300 kph for much of the journey.

Accompanied by Queen Sofia and Prime Minister Zapatero, the King left Madrid a few minutes late at 11.09 on Saturday morning but his train made up three minutes during the 391 kilometre journey. "I am proud of size and quality of this project," said Juan Carlos, "which allows us to look forward in times of crisis and economic difficulties." Earlier last week, Crown Prince Felipe inaugurated another stretch of the same line which branches off to south-east to Albacete.

The Madrid - Valencia service went into public service on Sunday and Renfe says that, with 15 trains in each direction every day, it is expected to carry three million passengers next year and to reduce air traffic on the route by 55 per cent. The line cost 6,600 million euros to build.

Madrid is now connected to 23 cities nationwide with more than 2,000 kilometres of high speed track, so overtaking France's 1,900 kilometres, leaving Spain beaten only by China's massive CRH rail network which has almost 7,500 kilometres of fast rail lines.

The Spanish AVE system began operating in 1992 between Madrid and Seville and by 2015, Renfe aims to have 5,500 kilometres of high-speed tracks linking the country from La Coruña to Murcia and from Málaga to Bilbao and San Sebastian. Eventually it is expected to connect with similar services in Portugal and France.