News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Frigiliana 'clamours' for more parking
Businessmen say the situation is putting tourists off from visiting the village
By Dave Jamieson
THE BUSINESS association in Frigiliana has denounced the lack of parking in the town. It says that in recent years, the town hall has eliminated hundreds of spaces where vehicles could be left.
The group points to recent work on the ring road which has led to the loss of 70 or 80 parking places. It says the cost of the renovation has produced a negative effect on the money coming into the local economy.
The association, composed of business owners, professionals and artists based in the municipality, claims that the lack of parking puts people off visiting the town. Those who do make the journey, it claims, are often forced to turn around and leave because they cannot find anywhere to park their cars.
It says that in the present tough economic climate, its members are not prepared to lose "a single euro" because of the "disastrous" management of public parking places. "Simply," it adds, "we are not going to permit it because it is playing with the future of our families and with the future of Frigiliana."
Caruana pleads for battle in courts not in Rock's waters
Gibraltar's chief minister was in Marbella as a guest of a tourism association
By David Eade
GIBRALTAR'S chief minister, Peter Caruana, was in Marbella last Friday to speak at a meeting held by the Skal International tourism association. He used the occasion to urge that any dispute over Gibraltar's territorial waters should be fought in the international courts and not by confrontations in the seas off the Rock.
Caruana also hopes that renewed talks under the Tripartite process can arrive at some formula to prevent such incidents which have led to protests by Gibraltar, London and Madrid.
Last Thursday Caruana met Bernardino León, one of Spanish premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's top officials, over an informal coffee at the San Roque Golf Club. Speaking in Marbella Caruana stressed they were old friends but admitted a chat about how the talks could be re-established had taken place.
Tensions have recently been heightened first by a confrontation between a Royal Gibraltar Police launch and a Guardia Civil patrol boat as it chased drug smugglers in to the Rock's territorial waters. The situation worsened last week when the Spanish Navy corvette, Atalaya, appeared off Gibraltar's east shore and ordered vessels to move as they were in Spanish waters.
The ‘comedic' Sr Blanco
Costa groups slam public works minister over property road show
By Dave Jamieson
A LOCAL pressure group in the Axarquía has described comments made by the public works minister as "comedic". José Blanco was talking ahead of his visit to London last week as the leader of a road-show trying to attract more Britons to buy property in Spain.
The government says the initiative is an attempt to promote this as being a good time to buy in Spain, with bargain prices available nationwide. It highlights particularly the holiday home destinations which are traditionally popular with British nationals. After London, the road-show continues to France, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Russia.
However, in an official press release issued by Madrid ahead of his departure, the minister said, "The road-show will highlight the strengths of our economy, transparency and legal certainty of our planning legislation." The comment has not gone down well amongst those who stand to lose or have lost their life savings in property deals in Spain over the past decade.
Save Our Homes Axarquía (SOHA) represents homeowners whose properties are under threat. The group's press officer, Gary Miles, told CDSN: "It is a politician's prerogative to sound a bit daft sometimes but here Sr Blanco sounds utterly comedic. We realise that very slowly things are getting sorted out, but it's not sorted now and it won't be sorted out for a good few years to come."
Exchange fire wreaks phone chaos in Málaga province
By Dave Jamieson
TELEFÓNICA suffered its worst breakdown ever in the province of Málaga last weekend when a fire in a telephone exchange in the city knocked out service in widespread zones of the Costa.
The blaze broke out on Friday night leaving tens of thousands of homes without phone lines and internet connections over the weekend, with many still not reconnected by the start of the working week.
In parts of the city, the emergency 091 and 061 services were unobtainable until midday on Saturday and the outage caused havoc in several neighbouring municipalities. The cause of the fire is being investigated but it appears to have started during an electrical storm.
The incident was first reported at 11.40pm on Friday at Movistar's Calle Eduardo Marquina exchange in the Huelin district of Málaga. The outbreak was described as intense and dozens of firefighters struggled for two hours to bring it under control, although it was not finally extinguished until 4am. Around 150 Telefónica engineers then moved in to assess the damage and start repairs, with lorry loads of replacement equipment ferried in from Sevilla and Zaragoza onboard convoys of lorries.
On Sunday, the workforce was increased after it was found that half of the exchange had been so badly damaged by the fire that it was totally unusable. In a statement, Telefónica said that it was unable to estimate how long it would take to install new equipment and to get the network fully operational again. By Sunday evening, 48 hours after the fire started, over 30,000 subscribers were still without a connection, and on Monday around 10,000 remained without phone service and 4,000 with no internet.
Worst hit were Málaga's western districts where cash points failed to produce cash and where shops and restaurants found that their credit card machines would not connect. The effects spread into municipalities some considerable distance from the city - including Marbella, Fuengirola, Mijas, Antequera and Villanueva de Trabuco among others - with estimates that 90,000 fixed-line telephones, an unknown number of mobiles and 10,000 ADSL internet connections stopped working.
Brits targeted in alleged real estate scam
Police have arrested estate agent accused of defrauding clients of 1.4 million euros
By Oliver McIntyre
BRITONS were a primary target of an alleged real estate and investment scam carried out by an estate agent in Benalmádena.
Police last week arrested J.L.G.M., 69, whose company Eurobrokers allegedly defrauded at least 1.4 million euros from clients who either invested in real estate through the firm or contracted the company to sell their own properties.
Police have identified around 20 victims, some of whom claim to have lost as much as 200,000 euros. Lawyers representing the victims believe there could be many more cases, and one of the solicitors, Juan Carlos Carrasco, has helped create an association - Inversores Perjudicados por Eurobrokers Benalmádena - to unite potentially affected parties.
Officers at the Torremolinos National Police station launched an investigation into the company at the end of 2009 after being notified by Interpol of a number of complaints filed by foreigners.
New water tax takes effect
Consumers to be charged at least 1.24 euros per month, depending on usage
By Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA de Andalucía's new water tax took effect on May 1 meaning consumers will see the hike reflected in their next bills.
The tax, which is to raise money for hydrology infrastructure including new or improved sewage plants, was originally supposed to come into force on January 1 but was postponed for five months.
The so-called ‘water canon' is a two-prong charge including a flat one-euro per month for all users plus a sliding per-use charge depending on the level of consumption.
The per-use charge is to be implemented gradually over the next five years. This year, for a household that uses 10 cubic metres of water per month, it will be 24 cents, a fee that will progressively increase with greater consumption.
Given that water bills are issued bimonthly, the bill for a household using 10 cubic metres of water a month will increase by nearly 2.50 euros including the flat one-euro monthly fee and the per-use charge.
It is expected that the new tax will bring in a total of around 30 million euros this year (the Junta estimated 43.5 million euros when it was going to be in effect from January 1).
The money raised is aimed at helping to fund the necessary infrastructure to meet the European Union directive requiring that all urban wastewater be treated in sewage plants. The Junta de Andalucía has a global plan for the investment of 1.765 billion euros on water treatment infrastructure between now and 2015.
Online gamers urged to cancel credit cards
Personal data of millions of PlayStation Network users was compromised
By Oliver McIntyre
SPANISH consumer watchdog Facua has urged users of Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN) online gaming service to cancel their credit cards as a precautionary measure after it was revealed last week that personal data from thousands of accounts had been robbed.
Sony has acknowledged that personal data - including names, birth dates, email addresses and log-in information - of some 77 million accounts was accessed in a "criminal cyber attack" on the company's data centre in San Diego, California.
While the company said there was no evidence that users' credit card details were stolen, the possibility cannot be ruled out and Facua insists that people who used their credit cards on their PlayStation account should immediately cancel their cards. "Obviously it is preferable to prevent [credit card] fraud than to take measures after becoming the victim of it," said the group.
The association says users should specify to their bank that they are cancelling the card as a precautionary measure against possible fraud. The bank should not charge for replacement of the card, but if it does, the user can file a claim with Sony for reimbursement, says Facua.
Further, the group says anyone who uses their PlayStation Network password as a password for other accounts or services should immediately change it.
Sony itself has asked all users to change their passwords on their PlayStation Network accounts.