News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Mayors unite to press for Mediterranean train line
Budget cuts threaten to derail the 25 billion-euro project
By Dave Jamieson
THE mayors of Málaga and Granada were due to join their opposite numbers from nine other cities in Castellón yesterday to develop a strategy in support of the Mediterranean Rail Corridor. The planned high-speed line from Andalucía to the French border, via Murcia, Valencia and Cataluña, is presently under threat.
The government detailed its plan for the line as recently as March, when the transport minister, José Blanco, said it would "break 500 years of centralisation". An investment of 25.4 billion euros was announced with a target operational date of 2020. The project is intended to provide a high-speed transportation system for freight and passengers from Algerciras to Perpignan in southern France, and on into Europe.
The problem is that the section of the line between Algeciras and Almería, through Málaga, will be built later, delaying the direct connection with Gibraltar and North Africa. Long-term plans show the AVE line running south to Almería, then turning inland to Granada with onward links to Málaga, although a report published in July suggests the line between Almería, Granada and the coast may not receive funding until after the Corridor's projected opening date. "A Budget for Europe 2020" proposed that travellers from Valencia heading for Algeciras would instead travel via Madrid. If the proposal is accepted, it would end the dream of a pan-European high-speed rail network.
Inland town of Teba turns Scottish for a weekend
Sir James Douglas, the Scottish warrior died in battle when storming the town's castle
By Oliver McIntyre
THE small inland town of Teba was flooded with kilts and bagpipe music at the weekend as it celebrated its seventh annual Scottish Days, in honour of Sir James Douglas, the Scottish warrior who died in battle when storming the town's castle alongside the Christian forces of King Alfonso X1 in 1330.
Douglas joined the battle at Teba en route to Jerusalem, where he was travelling with the heart Scottish King Robert the Bruce, who on his deathbed had requested that Douglas carry his heart to the Holy Land.
The Scottish Days event last weekend included a parade through the town's streets, with bagpipe music, period costumes and Scottish dancing.
ON THE RIGHT ROAD
Spain posts lowest summer traffic death toll in 50 years
By Oliver McIntyre
A TOTAL of 321 people died on Spain's highways during the months of July and August, down 12 per cent from the same period last year and marking the lowest traffic death toll in 50 years for the summer holiday season.
The number of people seriously injured was down by 11.3 per cent, to 1,537.
The figures were presented last week by the minister of the interior, Antonio Camacho, who said drivers' responsible behaviour behind the wheel had been "essential" to the reduction in the accident and death rates.
He added that while the numbers show that traffic safety policy is on the right track, 341 fatalities "are still too many deaths" and "we must continue working" to improve safety further.
This summer's death toll was the lowest since 1962, when 340 people were killed on Spanish highways. The figure is even more impressive considering that in 1962 there were around 1.5 million vehicles on Spain's roads, compared to 32 million today.
Town hall crackdown on bothersome restaurant touts
A new bylaw will introduce 3,000-euro fines for offenders
By Oliver McIntyre
MIJAS town hall has announced a plan to "eradicate" the use of touts to woo customers into local restaurants and shops.
A new bylaw currently being drawn up will set a fine of 3,000 euros, both for the touts themselves and for the businesses that employ them. Officials say they are also studying the possibility of offending businesses being stripped of their municipal licence.
"We want tourists who visit Mijas, whether Spanish or foreign, to be able to do so in peace, without being accosted by people trying to drum up business," said the councillor for public ways, Juan Carlos González. The aggressive touts "damage the tourism image of the town," he said.
The crackdown on touts comes as part of a revision of the municipal bylaw on public ways, which will be brought to the council for approval in the near future.
San Pedro residents take to the streets
The protest followed the Junta's rejection for the town to become a separate Municipality
By David Eade
EARLIER last week the mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, suggested the only people in San Pedro de Alcántara who were agitating for
separation from the municipality were those with a political axe to grind. However San Pedro replied for itself when some 600 people took to the streets on Friday night to demand independence.
The street protest followed the announcement earlier last week by the Andalucía government that it had rejected the town's appeal for it to be deemed a separate municipality.
The one-time farming colony has long argued that it has not received its fair share of investment especially during the GIL era.
The regional government based its case on the lack of urban separation between San Pedro and Marbella and that there would be any improvement in services by such a move.
Jobs scheme allows more short-term hiring
A temp job is better than no job, says minister
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Cabinet last week approved a job stimulus package that, among other things, relaxes regulations on temporary work contracts in the hope that doing so will keep companies from ditching temp workers to avoid having to hire them on permanently.
"A temporary worker is better than an unemployed worker," said the employment minister, Valeriano Gómez, at a press conference following the Cabinet meeting last Friday at which the measures were approved.
The scheme puts a two-year moratorium on the law that limits the number of temporary contracts that can be strung together before a company is forced to hire the worker on a permanent contract. That law establishes that workers who during a 30-month period have been contracted by a single company for a total of more than 24 months on two or more temporary contracts - even if in different positions - must be given a permanent contract.
The government says that in the current economic situation, "far from fomenting permanent hiring," the regulation limiting temporary contracts is driving many companies to simply let their temporary workers go.
The jobs package also includes an extension for six more months (to February 15, 2012) of the 400-euro-a-month benefit for jobless people who have used up their normal unemployment benefit and are enrolled in training programmes.
Further, it creates a new, apprentice-type job contract for young people with no professional qualifications, under which they can gain experience while working part time and undergoing training.
Junta tells hospital to remove patient's lifeline
Hospital at first denied family's request to remove feeding tube
By Oliver McIntyre
A 90-YEAR-OLD woman who had suffered irreparable brain damage from a stroke had her feeding tube removed last week after the Junta de Andalucía told the hospital to carry out her family's request that the tube be removed.
TThe Junta's health minister, María Jesús Montero, said the situation was covered under the normal application of Andalucía's right to die law, which was passed in March of last year.
Ramona Estévez's son said that doctors at the Blanca Paloma hospital in Huelva, a private hospital that collaborates with the Andalucía health service, had rejected his request for his mother's feeding tube to be removed following her July 26 stroke. He said hospital staff told the family that removing the tube would be illegal under Spain's penal code.
However, the Junta's Sra Montero said that the family's request - based on the will of the patient as expressed to them ahead of her stroke - represented a "rejection of treatment" by the patient, a concept that is "perfectly covered" under the right to die law.
Sra Montero said that the situation was resolved without incident and that the Junta had not had to "order" the hospital to remove the feeding tube but merely "clarify" the application of the Ley de Muerte Digna, as the right to die law is known.
Two teens die after taking jimson weed
The victims, both 18, were at an illegal rave party
By Dave Jamieson
TWO young men died and a third was left in a coma following an illegal rave party at Getafe in Madrid's southern outskirts. Last Wednesday, a 23-year-old man and his 19-year-old girlfriend were arrested in the Coslada district of the city on suspicion of supplying drugs.
The bodies of the two 18-year-olds who died were found separately four days ahead of the arrests and showed no signs of violence. The third man, aged 20, was treated in intensive care but allowed home later in the week. The party was held at a derelict monastery and analyses showed that all three had taken large amounts of various drugs, including stramonium, also known as jimson weed, which is hallucinogenic and can be very toxic. However, the survivor tested negative for speed and told police that he believes that his drink had been tampered with.
Hospital sources say the stramonium had been supplied in liquid form, and that taking four to six grams of it could result in changes of behaviour, while larger doses could result in death. The effects can be aggravated by alcohol or amphetamines.
Preliminary autopsy reports indicate that the two young men may have died not directly from the drug but from heat stroke as they wandered around the countryside disoriented for 10 hours in 40-plus-degree heat.