News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week of political turmoil for Junta
Resignations, allegations and cash cuts rock the regional government
By Dave Jamieson
LAST week was one which the president of Andalucía and his immediate predecessor will wish to forget. José Antonio Griñán was forced to make another cabinet reshuffle, his fifth in just two years, while Manuel Chaves, now the minister for territorial policy in Madrid, heard allegations of alleged corruption during his time in Sevilla. Meanwhile, it was reported that the EU has frozen the Junta de Andalucía's funding for employment and training grants due to errors and irregularities detected in management of the funds.
The Junta reshuffle came in the wake of the resignation last week of Luis Pizarro, who had been second to the socialist PSOE party's regional president for 19 years. Sr Pizarro was the Junta de Andalucía's councillor for government and justice, and his resignation apparently came as a complete surprise, and was quickly followed by the resignation of his deputy, José Antonio Gómez-Periñán, along with two other members of the PSOE's executive in Cádiz. All those involved are reported to be unhappy about the regional government's decision to replace its delegate in Cádiz.
Then, allegations emerged that Iván Chaves, son of the former regional president, mediated between various companies and the regional government. He was also reported to be the major shareholder in a company which landed a massive contract to develop a town planning project in Sevilla.
Repsol calls off Costa gas prospecting - for now
Government approval delays force company to move on to Morocco exploration project
By Oliver McIntyre
REPSOL has decided to at least temporarily abandon its plans to explore for gas off the coast of Mijas and Fuengirola, due to the Environment Ministry's continuing delays in approving the project's environmental impact statement.
The so-called Siroco project has been in the planning stages since 2005 and Repsol was hoping to perform the prospecting work between January and May of this year to avoid the tourism season and whale migrations.
But the ministry has yet to announce its decision, and Repsol's permit to explore the zone expires in August following two extensions that were granted by the Industry Ministry due to the delays with the environmental impact statement approval.
Last week the company announced that it is suspending the project and taking the platform and other equipment that was to be used here to another exploration site in Morocco, where it will be in use until at least June.
HOLY PRICE HIKE
Hotels jack up their rates for Semana Santa
By Oliver McIntyre
TOURISTS visiting Andalucía for its famous Semana Santa festivities will pay for the privilege: a new study shows the region's hotels have raised their rates by a hefty 28 per cent in April.
The rate hike in Andalucía was the largest in the country and well above the Spain-wide average of 12 per cent, according to the study by the hotel comparison website trivago.es. For the first time, the region's average price for a hotel room for the night exceeds 100 euros.
Sevilla, which has the most famous Semana Santa processions, registered the biggest hike, with prices up by 43 per cent compared to March and averaging 129 euros a night (the study looks at the prices for a double room at all the hotels in its database).
Close behind Sevilla is Córdoba, where rates are up by 41 per cent with an average price of 120 euros a night, followed by Granada, up 33 per cent to 97 euros. Málaga saw a more modest jump of 25 per cent, with an average price of 94 euros a night.
HMS Cumberland pays final visit to the Rock
Second warship from Libyan operations to dock in Gibraltar within days
By David Eade
HMS CUMBERLAND paid her final visit to the Rock on Monday. After a few days in port she started her return to her base port of Plymouth where she will fire a gun salute to mark the end of her commission.
This signals the end of the final deployment of HMS Cumberland, which started when she sailed out of Devonport on a misty September morning last year.
On this last deployment HMS Cumberland conducted counter-piracy patrols in the Gulfs of Aden and Oman; guarded the Iraqi Al Basra oil platform in the Northern Arabian Gulf; took part in Exercise AIR KHANDJAR with the United Arab Emirates' Navy and Air Force, as well as other exercises with the Saudi Arabian Navy; patrolled the Central and Southern Arabian Gulf securing sea lanes and deterring smugglers as well as maritime crime and amongst other duties supported the state visit of Her Majesty the Queen's to Abu Dhabi last November.
Cumberland made international headlines when she took part in the evacuation of British and other nationals from Benghazi in Libya. During three visits to Libya's troubled second city, Cumberland evacuated 454 people, including 129 Britons. She was the first and last British warship into Benghazi and Britain's biggest contributor to the evacuation effort.
HMS Cumberland was the second naval vessel involved in the Libya operations to dock in Gibraltar in a matter of days. Last Friday the US nuclear submarine USS Florida berthed in the port following operations off Libya.
Good news at last
Extraordinary donations put the Cudeca cancer care foundation in the black
By Oliver McIntyre
FOR the first time in five years, Cudeca expects to end 2011 in the black, thanks to major donations that were made in 2010 but will be realised this year, announced officials last week at the presentation of the cancer hospice's annual report for 2010.
The donations that will pull the centre out of the red are four properties that were bequeathed to the Cudeca in 2010 and that will be sold this year, bringing in an estimated 600,000 euros.
"With this extraordinary income we will have enough revenues to cover expenses for 2011," said Rafael Olalla, Cudeca's financial director. However, given that the property bequeaths represent one-off donations as opposed to ongoing funding, the centre will "reanalyse the situation in November" to assess its financial prospects for 2012, he said.
In 2010 Cudeca posted its fifth consecutive year of budget deficit - due to its costly inpatient unit - though the shortfall of 280,000 (of the 2.78 million-euro budget) was 33 per cent less than the 2009 loss of 415,000 euros. Much of the improvement was thanks to another extraordinary donation received by the NGO last year - a 100,000-euro gift from Indian pharmaceutical mogul and philanthropist Dr Yusuf Hamied. It was the largest personal donation ever received by Cudeca.
English Cemetery hit by another robbery
The cost to repair the damage is more than the minor items stolen
By Oliver McIntyre
THE English Cemetery in Málaga suffered its second robbery in the last three months at the weekend. A thief, or thieves, broke into the visitor centre at the cemetery entrance in the early morning hours and made off with a few minor items such as packets of biscuits, jars of jam and honey, and some change from the donation tin.
Cemetery officials say the value of the items stolen was less than the cost of the damage done as the thieves ripped the security bars from the wall and broke a window to gain entry to old gatehouse that houses the visitor centre. The cost to repair the damage is estimated at 300 euros.
Just months ago the cemetery's church was broken into and thieves made off with two silver chalices. "They probably didn't have great monetary value but they were sacred instruments used in religious ceremonies," said Bruce McIntyre, president of the English Cemetery Foundation.