News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Life sentences for terrorists but not child killers
Tough-sentence activist groups upset by government turnaround
By Oliver McIntyre
IN A BLOW to activists lobbying for life sentences for criminals who commit violent offences against children, the justice minister said last week that his proposed ‘reviewable life sentence' will apply only to terrorists, and not to child killers or rapists.
Minister Alberto Gallardón and other Partido Popular leaders had previously suggested that the reviewable life sentence, or life sentence with the possibility of parole, would be applied in "exceptional" cases of severe violent crime, which was widely taken to include violent crimes against children.
Currently Spain's justice system includes no life sentences, with a penitentiary policy based on the philosophy of rehabilitation and reinsertion into society.
Minister Gallardón justified the application of the new sentence only to terrorists because their eligibility for reinsertion can be more objectively assessed, based on their "decision to abandon terrorist activity," while evaluating the rehabilitation of a child sex offender is less clear-cut.
When applied, the reviewable life sentence - expected to be approved by this summer - will offer a chance of parole only after the prisoner has completely served his or her minimum sentence, likely 20 years or more.
Traffic in Mijas Pueblo centre now residents-only
The move comes as part of a council strategy to 'semi-pedestrianise' the touristic historic quarterBy Oliver McIntyre
VEHICLE access to the historic centre of Mijas Pueblo is now open only to local residents and visitors staying at the two hotels in the zone, after the town hall last week installed no-entry signs at key locations to keep out all other vehicles.
The move comes as part of a town hall strategy to "semi-pedestrianise" the heavily touristic historic quarter of the pueblo, said town hall officials.
"A good part of the daily traffic in the centre of the Mijas Pueblo was of vehicles driven by tourists and visitors looking for a parking space in the historic quarter, where there is barely any parking," said the town hall. Along with the traffic restrictions, signage has now been improved to point drivers to the Virgen de la Peña public car park.
Foreigners drive population growth on CostaMálaga province bucked the national trend which dropped by 0.7% last year
By Oliver McIntyre
DESPITE the economic crisis, the foreign population of Málaga province grew by 2.6 per cent last year - six and a half times the growth of the Spanish population in the province, which was practically flat at 0.4 per cent.
The number of British residents in Málaga province jumped by 3.6 per cent, according to the provisional data released last week by the National Statistics Institute (INE).
Málaga province bucked the national trend, as the foreign population Spain-wide dropped by 0.7 per cent, the first time since 1998 that it has posted a decline. Between January 2011 and January 2102, Spain saw a net loss of 40,000 foreign residents while Málaga province gained 8,000.
The official figures contradict oft-cited anecdotal evidence of expats leaving the Costa and heading back home. However, because the INE numbers are based on municipal 'padrón' census data, the figures may not accurately reflect the coming or going of many non-registered residents.
Estepona discovers 200,000-euro 'deficit'
A council worker has been suspended while police investigate the alleged embezzlement which took place over a three-year period
By David Eade
ESTEPONA is already strapped for cash but it appears the coffers are 200,000 euros short due to the alleged theft by a member of staff at the town hall.
On Monday an employee of the treasury department was suspended without pay whilst an internal and police investigation continues.
The suspension comes just a week after the mayor, José María García Urbano, called in the National Police to investigate the missing cash which it is believed started to disappear in 2009.
The monies were from payments made by the public, mostly in small sums. Initially it was thought that the amount taken was just over 100,000 euros but on Sunday town hall sources told EFE, the Spanish news agency that the amount was closer to 200,000 euros.
The mayor promptly placed the matter into the hands of the National Police to determine what had happened and an investigation began into the employees in the culture and municipal treasury departments.
García Urbano said he was saddened by the need to announce what had happened as it was a further black mark against the town hall.
Health tourism axed
By Dave Jamieson
€7bn healthcare cut includes tighter controls on care for non-residents
MINISTERS have approved proposals which aim to slash 10 billion euros from spending on health and education this year. Friday's cabinet meeting approved reforms which will crack down on so-called health tourism, as well as scrapping free prescriptions for pensioners and increasing university tuition charges.
The government had previously stated it aimed to curb health tourism, claiming that the state health service was being abused by foreigners. Now, it has moved to make obtaining free treatment more difficult for visitors from abroad.
At present, any foreigner registering on the official list of residents, the padrón, at a town hall is entitled to a health card which guarantees the same level of health care as Spanish citizens. However, the government says the system has been abused by illegal immigrants and relatives of some foreign residents who, it claims, have come to Spain solely to benefit from the health service. Health Minister Ana Mato claimed that every year, 700,000 people use the system without having the right to do so, at a cost to the country of 917 million euros.