News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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New councils sworn in
Administrations knuckle down to work in the town halls
By Dave Jamieson, Oliver McIntyre and David Eade
TOWN halls throughout Spain held ceremonies on Saturday to mark the official hand-over of power to the administrations which will control them for the next four years, following the recent elections. The socialist PSOE now controls just nine provincial capitals in the country while the Partido Popular has 33, including the city of Málaga where Francisco de la Torre of the Partido Popular was returned as mayor with the support of 19 of his party colleagues.
In Málaga province the PP is now in power at 34 local town halls, 16 more than after the 2007 elections. Further, its control in nearly all of the larger municipalities means the centre-right party now governs over some 90 per cent of the province's population.
Axarquia coalitions and absolute majorities
The colours of some town councils in the Axarquía have been determined only through a series of pacts and agreements with minority parties. In Vélez-Málaga, Francisco Delgado Bonilla formally took office as mayor with the support of his 13 Partido Popular colleagues and the two councillors of the Torre del Mar Independence group, which gives him an absolute majority on the council.
The PP also enjoys an absolute majority in Rincón de la Victoria where Francisco Salado was sworn in as mayor, as well as in Nerja, where José Alberto Armijo started his fifth consecutive term as the town's mayor.
Torrox, however, has a socialist mayor, Francisco Muñoz, who faces a complex term in office with 11 councillors in opposition. The situation arose after the failure of the five Partido Popular councillors and the three Izquiera Unida councillors to form a coalition which would have produced a majority group.
All change in Mijas and Benalmádena
It was an historic moment in Mijas, where Ángel Nozal was sworn in as the town's first-ever PP mayor after his party won an absolute majority in the perennial PSOE bastion, with 15 of the 25 seats on the council.
In one of the PSOE's few high points, socialist Javier Carnero took over as mayor of Benalmádena at the head of a three-party coalition, taking back control of the town hall from the Partido Popular, which was the most-voted party at the elections with 11 seats but was shy of an absolute majority, and which itself took over the town hall two years ago by forming a centre-right coalition to topple then-mayor Carnero. The PSOE, with seven seats, has joined with Union Centro Benalmádena (four seats) and Izquierda Unida (two) to control the 25-seat council.
In the Guadalhorce valley, the PP's greatest gain was in Coín, where it took control for the first time ever with the swearing in of Fernando Fernández-Tapia Ruano with an absolute majority.
PSOE takes La Línea
The big news as the mayors were voted in on Saturday on the western Costa del Sol was that the Partido Popular mayor of La Línea, Alejandro Sánchez, who had declared war on Gibraltar has been ousted. Gemma Araujo is the new PSOE mayor, the first woman to hold the post in the municipality's history.
The other big news was in Ronda were the Partido Popular in coalition with the Partido Andalucista now rules. At the last election Antonio Marín was re-elected PA mayor but then he and his fellow eight councillors defected to PSOE being officially labelled political turncoats.
Alhaurín expat treks to Machu Picchu for charity
By Oliver McIntyre
Alhaurín el Grande resident Debbie Norman is preparing for a trek to Machu Picchu in Peru on a trip aimed at raising money for paediatric medical research.
The 49-year-old Bedfordshire native, who has lived in Spain for the last 10 years and currently works as a newspaper and magazine distributer along the Costa, says the trip will be the fulfilment of a year-long dream. The trek, scheduled for September, follows an ancient Inca path through the Andes mountains to the lost city of Machu Picchu, reaching a maximum elevation of 4,800 metres.
While not an experienced trekker, Debbie says she is a strong walker and will make up in enthusiasm what she may lack in experience. "This will be a big, big achievement for me," she said.
But before she can take on the challenge of hiking to Machu Picchu, she must first overcome the challenge of meeting her fundraising goals. Her total goal, set by trip organiser Action Medical Research, the UK medical research charity, is £3,000, and she has to have 80 per cent of it raised by July 15.
As she works to get into shape for the trip, as well as to seek sponsors to help her reach her fundraising goals, Debbie is counting down the days to her big experience. "Once in your life you've got to do something - and this is going to be my something," she said. "And at the same time I can help someone else by supporting research for babies and children."
SOS TO BRITAIN
Spanish property victims call for UK government action
By Dave Jones
VICTIMS of Spanish property abuse are petitioning the Foreign Office in London to ask for the British government's help to halt the scandals.
A total of 1,150 signatures have been collected and sent to David Lidington MP, minister for Europe at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
The petitioners flag up the ‘persistent problems met in our efforts to buy and sell property in Spain' - and call on UK officials to intervene on their behalf by putting pressure on Spain.
"These problems have been with us for the last decade, and have either been dismissed or remain unresolved as of now because they are not being tackled by the relevant Spanish authorities," states the letter signed by Ruth Genda, a victim of Spanish property fraud.
"Shockingly, there is no sign of them about to do so either."
The petition was launched in April in protest at the Spanish property road shows being run by public works minister José Blanco and housing minister Beatriz Corredor.
"Such is the strength of outrage of those hurt in the property process in Spain that many want to make their protests known to you," the letter states.
Crisis sees hundreds of horses sent to abattoir
By Oliver McIntyre
WITH the prolonged economic crisis making it more and more difficult for horse breeders to face the costs of maintaining their animals, and with little demand from new buyers, hundreds of horses have been taken to the slaughterhouse for the meat trade in recent months.
The only abattoir in Málaga province licensed to handle horses, Matadero Industrial in Humilladero, says that in the three months since it began accepting horses it has slaughtered around 1,000 of the animals, averaging around 70 a week. The horsemeat is mainly exported to countries elsewhere in Europe such as France, Germany and Italy, according to the company.
Breeders unable to continue maintaining their stock of horses at a monthly cost of around 150 euros a head, and unable to sell them, have found a financially viable outlet in the meat trade.
Rather than incurring the veterinary and disposal costs of having the animal euthanised, they can receive payment of around 250 euros by delivering it to the slaughterhouse.
Fury over court rejection of Gibraltar waters case
UK is trying overturn ruling that gave Spain environmental control of the waters off the Rock
By David Eade
IT WAS an error by the British Foreign Office that allowed Spain, rather than the UK, to be granted control over Gibraltar's waters for environmental purposes by the EU. Whilst Madrid had entered its claim, the British government gave map references for waters off Algeria and hence Spain's application was granted.
In an attempt to have this EU ruling overturned, the Gibraltar and British governments have taken a case to the General Court of the European Court. However, it has now ruled both the Gibraltar and the UK government's cases related to the territorial waters are inadmissible on procedural grounds, and hence Spain's claim still stands. The verdict was reached without an oral hearing or a consideration of the merits of the cases.
Needless to say, the court's decision was received with fury on the Rock. The Gibraltar government's European legal team has advised that the ruling is highly appealable, and Gibraltar has authorised them to draw up and submit an appeal to the European Court of Justice.
An angry Gibraltar chief minister Peter Caruana stated: "Our case sought to protect Gibraltar from the adverse consequences to British sovereignty and exclusive Gibraltar jurisdiction of the British Gibraltar territorial waters.
"For that reason, the Gibraltar government considers it necessary and desirable to appeal the ruling that the Gibraltar government's case is inadmissible, and hopes that the UK will do the same in respect of its case."
The chief minister added: "There are absolutely no circumstances in which the Gibraltar government will permit British Gibraltar territorial waters to be treated, administered or governed for EU or any other purposes other than as waters of exclusive British sovereignty, under the exclusive jurisdiction and control of the Gibraltar government and Gibraltar authorities and subject to the exclusive application of Gibraltar laws".
SAS forces chemists to sell cheapest medicines
Costlier name brands allowed only if specified in doctor's prescription
By Oliver McIntyre
THE ANDALUCIA health service (SAS) has taken a hard-line stance to force chemists to dispense the cheapest available medication when a doctor's prescription is for a type of drug (principal active ingredient) and does not specify a particular brand name.
The obligation for pharmacists to dispense the cheapest medication is not new, but SAS has now introduced a tough policy that will hit the chemists in their pocketbook if they fail to comply.
Previously, if the pharmacy sold a more expensive medicine, say one that costs five euros when the cheapest one costs four euros, SAS would reimburse the chemist for just the four euros. But under the new rules, SAS will withhold the reimbursement altogether.
The only exception will be in cases where the cheapest option is not available due to a supply shortage.
Pharmacists complain that in many cases patients themselves request a particular brand when picking up a prescription that specifies only the type of drug, and that until now they have sold the patient the product knowing that they would be reimbursed for only part of the cost. But now, they say, they would be forced to eat the entire cost.
Organ donations increase after last year's decline
Just 15.5 per cent of people refuse to donate organs from a deceased family member
By Oliver McIntyre
THE first five months of the year have seen an increase in the number of organ donors in Spain, reversing a trend that saw donations decline in 2010 to their lowest level in a decade.
Year to date up to May 15 there were 705 donations, up 8.5 per cent compared to the same period last year, permitting a total of 1,531 transplants, an increase of 12 per cent, according to the figures from the National Transplant Organisation (ONT).
While in 2010 there was an increase of one percentage point in the number of people who refused to donate organs from a deceased family member, in the first five months of this year the figure has dropped by 3.5 points, to 15.5 per cent.