Costa del Sol News - 18th March 2013

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.


No to tax increase advice, say ministers

EC praises Spain’s progress but urges new IVA hike and other measures

By Dave Jamieson

SPAIN is not planning to follow European advice on further tax increases.

Finance minister Cristóbal Montoro made it clear that ministers would not adopt the suggestions made by the EC last week, while an EU court ruling on taxes on health products has also been rejected.

The EC’s remarks came in a report from Brussels on Spain’s progress in complying with the terms of the cash bailout it had received to recapitalise the country’s banking sector. In general, Madrid was awarded a pass mark for the actions it has taken to stabilise the markets and ease liquidity, but the EC noted that Spain’s revenue from value added tax and environmental taxes are the lowest in the EU. It recommended that more categories taxed at reduced rates of IVA should be moved into the top, 21 per cent band, while taxes on fuel should also be increased.


Marta del Castillo’s parents challenge judges

Family’s recusal request will delay review of Samuel Benítez acquittal

By Oliver McIntyre

THE Sevilla court’s revision of its acquittal of Samuel Benítez, who had been accused of helping to get rid of the body of murdered teenager Marta del Castillo, could be delayed by at least two months after Marta’s parents filed a request for the judges to be recused.

Last month the Supreme Court ordered the Sevilla court to re-issue its verdict in relation to Sr Benítez, saying his acquitting was based on an “arbitrary and illogical” timeline of events on the night of the crime. The Supreme Court ruling came on an appeal in which Marta del Castillo’s parents had sought a complete retrial of the case.

The order for the court to re-issue its verdict on Sr Benítez could potentially see him convicted or could result in the court maintaining his acquittal but adjusting its sentence summary to address the problematic elements identified by the Supreme Court.

The victim’s parents argue that the original judges in the case are “contaminated,” having already formed their opinion that Sr Benítez did not participate in covering up the crime, and should be replaced for the re-issuing of the verdict.


Smurfs return to Júzcar for follow-up movie

Sony Pictures has announced the second part of the 3D film and will once again use the Serrania hamlet to promote it

By David Eade

In 2011 the Serranía de Ronda hamlet of Júzcar was painted blue by Sony Pictures so that it could be internationally promoted as the Smurf village for the launch of the Smurfs 3D movie.

Since then the village of 242 residents has been visited by over 185,000 people.

At the end of last year villagers voted to stay blue as the influx of visitors had brought great financial benefits for the community.

Now the decision has paid off a second time as Sony has announced the launch of the second part of the original movie which will further boost the visitor numbers.


PP demands opening of Guadalhorce hospital

Hospital remains closed nearly a year after construction was completed

By Oliver McIntyre

THE Partido Popular in Málaga province has announced it is filing a motion on the regional parliament calling for the Junta de Andalucía to equip and open the new Guadalhorce hospital, which remains closed nearly a year after construction was completed.

PP regional MPs Antonia Ruiz and Ana Rico announced the move alongside PP leaders in the Guadalhorce area during a gathering last week outside the hospital in Cártama. “It’s been eight years since they promised the construction of this facility, which in the beginning was to be a full-blown regional hospital and was later reduced to a smaller CHARE hospital,” said Sra Ruiz.

The hospital was originally supposed to be built by 2008 but suffered a string of delays and construction did not get underway until the end of 2009.


Málaga taxi row – ‘fare’ or not?

Cabbies battle over right to pick up passengers in the city

By Dave Jamieson

TAXI drivers from outside Málaga say an excessive number of taxis licensed in the city is responsible for moves to ban them from picking up fares within the city limits. The Andaluz Federation of Rural Taxis says the dispute has not been caused by the city’s professional drivers, but by the town hall.

Taxi drivers in the city have long argued that taxis from other municipalities which deliver passengers to the airport, as well as the rail terminus, bus station and port, should not be allowed to pick up passengers for their return journeys. They have been vocal in calling for the repeal of a 1985 bylaw which permits this, arguing that they are losing business as a result.

However, drivers from outside Málaga say they are doing nothing illegal and are obliged to keep a record of all journeys made to the airport and elsewhere. They add that, according to statistics from the state airports operator Aena, only five per cent of the vehicles passing through Málaga airport are taxis from other municipalities. The figures, they claim, indicate the remaining 95 per cent include local taxis, self-drive hire cars, courtesy cars and public transport.

Associations of taxi drivers in other municipalities argue that, with 70 per cent of arrivals at Málaga airport heading for destinations outside the city, it makes sense to allow out-of-town taxis to pick up fares there. Several town halls along the cost have already passed motions supporting their local drivers and asking that they be authorised to collect passengers within Málaga.

However, Málaga town hall does not agree and is working with its taxi drivers to have the 1985 bylaw repealed. Mobility councillor Raúl López was quoted last week as saying that the demand by Málaga drivers was “common sense” and that it would be “more appropriate” for them to handle services at the airport, “because it is in our municipality.”


Mijas seeks removal of 'dangerous' overhead wires

By Oliver McIntyre

Mijas town hall has submitted a formal request to Endesa for the removal of the overhead electricity cables along Camino de Campanales in Lagunas, due to the "danger" posed by the cables and their support towers. The town hall wants the electric company to run the cables underground instead.

The town hall points to the danger posed by the location of many of the towers in the centre of the road, which is used daily by "hundreds of cars and lorries" travelling between Camino de Coín and Avenida de Mijas to bypass Las Lagunas centre.

It notes that the road is also the location of two of the town's biggest schools, with a total of around 2,000 students, creating additional traffic during pick-up and drop-off hours.

The location of the cable towers in the middle of the roadway poses "great danger" to traffic, said councillor José Francisco Ruiz Fontalba, citing reports drawn up by the town hall's security and town planning departments.

Not only does the location of the towers increase the risk of accidents, but it also poses the danger that such an accident could result in the power lines being knocked down.

"We want Endesa to comply with its obligations," stated the councillor, saying that such overhead cables are "prohibited under current regulations".


PLIGHT OF THE GALGO

The tragedy of Spain’s hunting dogs

By Dave Jamieson

THE arrival of spring means the end of the hunting season. Unfortunately, it also means death for thousands of dogs abandoned by hunters in the province of Málaga.

The favourite dog used in the hunt is the Spanish galgo, an ancient breed thought to be an ancestor of the greyhound. The galgo is thought to have been used in hunting since ancient Celtic times and is still a major presence in many Spanish villages. However, some hunters continue to regard them as tools which can be discarded when no long required.

An animal rescue group, Galgos en Familia, says that hundreds of these dogs are collected in Málaga every year, the majority of them abandoned in the valley of Antequera where they are used to capture hares, an activity which is banned in many other European countries but is still legal in Spain. Rescued dogs are cared for at the group’s own shelter in Alhaurín de la Torre.

Rescued Galgos available for adoption can be seen at the group’s website, while more information can be obtained from Vera on 607 414 409, or email [email protected]


Police save elderly Briton

The man was trapped in his home after breaking his hip

By Oliver McIntyre

LOCAL police and firefighters in Torremolinos have come to the aid of an elderly British man who was trapped in his home for three days after falling and breaking his hip.

Officers went to the home in Calle Río Isuela after concerned neighbours called to report they had not seen 78-year-old Briton D.B.B. for three days, and his dog was barking persistently inside the apartment, explained Torremolinos town hall.

After knocking on the door repeatedly and receiving no response the officers called the fire department for assistance.


Supreme Court strikes down burqa ban

Judges find municipal ordinance infringes on right to religious freedom

By Oliver McIntyre

The Supreme Court has struck down a Cataluña town’s ban on the face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women. In 2010 the town hall in Lerída, 175 kilometres west of Barcelona, became the first town in Spain to instate a burqa ban, prohibiting the use of such face-covering garments in municipal buildings.

But the Supreme Court ruled last week that the ban infringes on the right to religious freedom and is outside the scope of a local town hall’s legal jurisdiction. Any such limitation on religious freedom would require a legislative law, not a mere municipal ordinance, it said.

The court rejected the argument that the use of the face-covering veil disturbs “the public peace, security and public order, and that the measure is necessary to protect women’s equality”. In its sentence it called the public order argument “totally baseless,” and warned of possible unintended risks to women’s equality, saying the ban could result in a “shutting in” of veil-wearing women.

However, the court, which was ruling on an appeal filed by the Watani Freedom and Justice Association against the Cataluña High Court’s upholding of the ban, limited its findings to the Lérida situation and not the broader constitutionality of burqa bans. It said its ruling does not “prejudge the possibility of the legislature establishing the regulations it deems suitable”.

The Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (Ucide) applauded the court’s rejection of the Lérida ban, saying such prohibitions violate religious freedom and create hostility toward Muslim women.

Lérida’s mayor, Ángel Ros, said he did not agree with the ruling, noting that the ban was aimed at supporting women’s equality, and said the town hall may appeal to the Constitutional Court against the decision. Some feminist organisations also criticised the court ruling, arguing that the face-covering veil damages the dignity of women.

Following Lérida’s passage of the burqa ban in 2010, a number of other towns in the country followed suit, including Coín in Málaga.

Spain has never passed national legislation regarding face-covering veils, though some other countries have passed bans, including France and Belgium.


Tourism revenues up despite drop in visitors

Spending per visitor was up by more than nine per cent in January

By Oliver McIntyre

ANDALUCÍA and the rest of Spain are attracting fewer but higher-spending tourists, according to the latest government figures.

In January Andalucía received 8.2 per cent fewer foreign tourists than during the same month of last year, yet these 267,637 visitors spent a total of 303 million euros, an increase of 9.2 per cent.

The figures were published last week in the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce’s Egatur report on tourism spending and Frontur report on foreign tourist arrivals.

The results in Andalucía were a more exaggerated version of the nationwide trend; in January Spain received a total of 2.7 million foreign tourists, down 2.6 per cent from January 2012, who spent nearly 2.83 billion euros, an increase of 6.5 per cent.


Bárcenas probe continues as he sues PP

By Dave Jamieson

THE investigation into allegations against a former Partido Popular treasurer has continued with court orders, legal action and a police raid. Luis Bárcenas has been accused of making undeclared cash payments to senior party figures over many years following the publication in the newspaper El País of extracts from hand-written ledgers in which he is alleged to have kept records of a slush fund. This is said to have been financed by illegal donations to the party.

Last week started with Sr Bárcenas being ordered by the High Court to surrender his passport and to report to the court every 15 days. Anti-corruption prosecutors told the judge that Sr Bárcenas’ wealth abroad remains “quite substantial” and is subject to investigation, while they consider him to be a flight risk. On Monday, he launched an appeal against the order.

Two days later, it was revealed that Sr Bárcenas is suing the Partido Popular for unfair dismissal, claiming that he worked for the party as an advisor from March 2010 until the end of January this year when, he said, he found out that the party had, without his consent, stopped paying his social security contributions.

His claims are at odds with the version of events given by the Partido Popular’s leaders, who have repeatedly said that Sr Bárcenas stopped working for the party in March 2010. However, the party said it allowed him to take his severance pay on a monthly basis, instead of in a lump sum, complete with social security payments and deductions for tax.


Foreigners lead upswing in Costa home sales

The surge in sales in the fourth quarter may be due, in part, to buyers rushing to beat an increase in IVA on home sales that came in on January 1

By Oliver McIntyre

FOREIGN residents led the way in an upswing in home sales in Málaga province in 2012, with sales to foreign buyers up 24 per cent compared to the previous year. The surge in sales to foreign residents far outstripped the overall increase of 9.8 per cent in the province, according to the year-end statistics from the Public Works Ministry.

Last year foreigners living in the province purchased 4,974 homes, up from 4,009 in 2011 and from 3,363 in 2010.

The uptick accelerated in the final quarter of the year as foreign buyers snapped up 1,912 homes, up a dramatic 64 per cent from the same period of 2011, while overall sales for Q4 were up 27 per cent year-on-year, with a total of 6,691 homes sold in the province.


Health cuts leave inland towns with 'deficient coverage'

CSIF union's healthcare president in Málaga, Antonio Osorio, said failure to substitute absent staff has become standard, rather than occasional

By Oliver McIntyre

HEALTH cuts are being particularly badly felt in small inland towns of Málaga province as a lack of substitutions for absent staff members leaves some health centres with "deficient coverage" and poses "a risk to the population," said the CSIF public employees union last week.

The union says that given the already minimal staffing levels of the health centres in rural inland areas, un-substituted absences due to holidays or illness can leave some centres "empty and unattended for hours".

The situation arises when remaining staff, working on their own, are called out for an emergency or house call, leaving the centre "unattended," it said in a written release.