News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Motorway services gang detainedThe violent robbers targeted motorists on the AP7 motorway
By Dave Jones
A GANG which carried out a string of violent robberies on motorists using service stations along the trans-Mediterranean AP-7 motorway has been taken out by Guardia Civil.
The five Romanian nationals, aged between 26 and 46 years old, are accused of committing 17 such assaults.
Officers launched operation 'Ruiteros' when an alarming increase in the number of robberies in Alicante, Valencia, Castellón and Murcia was noted several months ago.
A Guardia Civil spokesman reported that the gang would hire rental vehicles for short periods of time and scour motorway service stations for victims.
He explained that they targeted families and travellers who were taking time out to relax during long journeys.
"In order to steal from their victims they would sometimes use force or they would deceive them," notes a Guardia Civil press release.
"They would also take advantage of people who were not watching their property.
"They did not hesitate to use physical force to get away from their victims when they had taken their property."
Items stolen included luggage, passports, credit cards, cash, keys, telephones and other personal items.
The spokesman noted that many motorists were unable to continue their journeys after they had been targeted.
When the suspects were arrested they were carrying documents, bags, credit cards and car keys which belonged to motorists who had been robbed.
Córdoba's ‘Patios' recognised by UNESCOThe Andalucía's annual Fiesta de los Patios gains Heritage of Humanity status on second try
By Dave Jamieson
CÓRDOBA'S annual Fiesta de los Patios was recognised by UNESCO last week as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization based in Paris described it last Thursday as "a festive community event which gives a sense of identity and continuity to people of Córdoba".
An application from the city was turned down last year and its representatives were asked to reapply this year with additional information. It was finally approved after UNESCO experts said that "gaps and ambiguities" which led to last year's rejection had been "fully covered".
The annual event in May was formalised in 1933 to add value to an ancient practice which started in Roman houses and was continued by the Arabs. The festival involves the decorating of private courtyards in Córdoba's historic centre, which is already listed as a World Heritage site.
Foreign buyers key in first home sales uptick in four yearsThe growth this year has been exclusively in second-hand homes (up 11 per cent)
By Oliver McIntyre
FOR THE first time since the start of the crisis, home sales in Málaga province have shown positive growth in the first three quarters of the year, thanks in a large part to foreign buyers.
From January to September home sales were up 3.5 per cent in the province compared to the same period in 2011, marking the first increase after four years of declining sales.
According to Public Works Ministry data, of the 12,692 homes sold in the province from January to September, 3,099, or nearly a quarter, were purchased by foreign buyers, marking an increase of 8.7 per cent compared to the same period last year. The increase in sales to Spanish buyers was a comparatively scant 1.9 per cent.
Britons top the list of foreign buyers, at 30 per cent, followed by Scandinavians, with a combined 20 per cent, and Germans on nine per cent. The fast-growing Russian market represented five per cent of all sales to foreigners.
The activity among foreign buyers has helped to keep Málaga among the top provinces for home sales; this year it is fourth in overall sales behind only Madrid, Barcelona and Alicante.
Málaga marathon marks 100th for British runner
By Oliver McIntyre
RUNNING a marathon is a major achievement for any athlete, but last Sunday's Ciudad de Málaga race marked a major milestone for one British runner.
When 55-year-old Betty Chan from Orpington, Kent, crossed the finish line it was the completion of her 100th marathon.
"It was a very emotional finish," Mrs Chan told CDSN, describing the entire race day as "absolutely brilliant".
She began running just over 10 years ago and ran her first marathon in London, as a charity fundraiser in memory of her mother who had died of cancer.
"At that time I thought it would be just that one marathon," she said.
Cruz Roja funds slashed as needs growThe Estepona branch of the NGO is struggling to meet the rising demand for help by families with no income
By David Eade
THE VOLUNTEERS who work with Cruz Roja in Estepona say that every day somebody comes into the office, in Calle Dos de Mayo in the Solis quarter, pleading for help because they have nothing.
Add to this the 500 families they have assisted already and the scale of the difficulties the NGO is facing becomes clear.
Maruja Carretero, president of the organisation, laments they can't do more. "We can offer showers and clothing but we can't give financial help."
Demand for economic help was such that what little money was available as of March, had ran out by September.
"If we don't have it, we can't help them," said Sra Carretero, who added that funds are distributed on an annual basis. By the end of the year she says the branch will have paid essential bills for needy families to the value of 3,000 euros, just half the amount that it paid out in 2011.
Thirty families with no income have been assisted in paying their electricity and water bills, rent, the purchase of medicines or basic food stuffs.
Carretero explained that the funds available to Cruz Roja are decided at a provincial level but this year there has been less money.
Sky blacks outExpats hit by loss of UK television coverage in Spain
By Dave Jamieson
BRITISH expats who watch television from the UK by satellite were surprised last week when several of their favourite channels failed to appear. The social networking sites were alive with questions from worried viewers concerned that their receiving equipment was faulty.
However, the disappearance of certain channels was fully expected, if not well publicised, and will be followed by others in the future, as the satellites which beam the signals down from space begin a programme of replacements. The changes apply equally to viewers using the Sky and Freesat systems.
At 2.30am GMT last Wednesday, a number of channels were moved to a new satellite, known as Astra 2F. Originally, they had been transmitted from a sister satellite, Astra 2D, which was launched into orbit 12 years ago and is reaching the end of its operational life. Late last year, the services it carried began migrating to a temporary home on Astra 1N, pending the arrival last month of the brand new Astra 2F.
Tráfico launches holiday alcohol testing campaignDrivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol will face fines of 500 euros and the loss of four to six points on their licence
By Oliver McIntyre
COSTA drivers can expect to be stopped and tested for alcohol and drugs over the next week or so after the Traffic Department on Monday launched a pre-Christmas crackdown.
The testing campaign comes during a period when many companies and individuals celebrate holiday lunches and dinners, say Tráfico officials, who urge the public to not get behind the wheel if they have consumed alcohol or drugs.
During the two-week campaign, which runs until Sunday December 23, checkpoints will be set up and drivers checked randomly for alcohol as well as drugs. Officers will carry out around 20,000 tests each day of the campaign throughout the country.
Tráfico has also invited local town halls to join the campaign, so addition testing checkpoints will be carried out in town by local police in many municipalities.