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Spanish News Today weekly round-up, 16th May 2014
Politician murdered, property market optimism and the “right to be forgotten”
A couple of big stories have dominated Spanish news this week, the main one being the murder on Monday of Isabel Carrasco, the president of the provincial government delegation in León. Initially there was a good deal of confusion over the motives of the two murderers, who are the wife and daughter of a police chief inspector, but over the course of the week it has emerged that they harboured a strong personal grudge against Sra Carrasco, whom they held to blame for the fact that the daughter had lost her job with the regional administration, before entering into an acrimonious labour dispute. According to some reports they had attempted to kill the politician on as many as five previous occasions before finally gunning her down on a León bridge on Monday.
Before that story broke, much attention in the Spanish media had been focused on the deaths of five children in Extremadura last Friday after the minibus in which they were travelling swerved to avoid a mechanical digger which was being driven by a man who was allegedly under the influence of drugs. Since then, worrying stories have come to light of a gas lorry driver six times over the legal alcohol limit in Almería and a school bus driver drunk at the wheel in Murcia, and a report published during the week reveals that almost half of all drivers killed on Spain’s roads last year were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their death.
Tinsa report first property price rises in eight years
In the property sector there has been relatively good news this week, with prices nearing stability and sales figures rising. Make no mistake, the sector is still in very poor health and any optimism has to be extremely cautious, but the latest Tinsa report concludes that in its catch-all category of “other municipalities” house prices have actually gone up slightly over the last twelve months. This is the first April price rise reported by Tinsa for eight years in any category, and further cause for optimism was provided by the central statistics unit’s report that March sales figures were 23% higher than in 2013. Again, let’s not get carried away: if this is indeed the start of an upturn, it has to be borne in mind that this is 23% more than rock bottom, and the actual level of sales recorded is still very low indeed.
Positive indicators for Spanish economy
In addition, there was good news for the economy as a whole this week, as fears of deflation were warded off by confirmation that the retail price index rose by 0.4% in April, indicating that the Easter holidays and the arrival of foreign tourists had stimulated demand sufficiently for prices to rise slightly. And it seems that more and more foreign tourists are coming to Spain: the number of passengers at the country’s airports last month was almost 10% higher than in April 2013.
Record number of blue flags for Spanish beaches as weather warms up
Another big topic of conversation this week has, as ever, been the weather. After temperatures in the south-east reached close to 35ºC last weekend there was a heatwave in the Canaries this week, and other reminders of the fact that summer is almost upon us were the awarding of a record 681 Blue Flags to Spain’s beaches and marinas and the arrival of this year’s first plague of jellyfish on beaches in Cádiz.
Wildlife in the spotlight
Also in the Canaries, the wildlife of Gran Canaria has been in the spotlight as the authorities grapple with the problem of the invasive Californian kingsnake while at the same time aiming to preserve the 160-million-year-old angel shark, and on the subject of the underwater world, bad news for seafood fans: Galician mussel farms are being temporarily shut down as a result of toxins in the water, so expect price rises in the near future.
Discovery of the ship in which Columbus discovered America....or not
Still underwater, it is being claimed that the wreck of the ship in which Columbus discovered America, the “Santa María”, has been discovered off the coast of Haiti, although the Spanish are treating these claims with some scepticism. Another cultural discovery which has been announced over the last week concerns two previously un-catalogued paintings by the flamboyant Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.
Gas injections caused Castellón earthquakes
Elsewhere, a swarm of Greenpeace protesters descended on the half-built mega-hotel in El Algarrobico in Almería last weekend to paint the slogan “hotel ilegal” on the controversial building, demanding that demolition work begin as soon as possible. Off the coast of Castellón, returning to the underwater world, it seems that the final nail has been driven into the coffin of the Castor Project offshore gas storage facility. A report which was filed in December has only just been made public, and it contains the expert geologists’ conclusion that there was definitely a link between the project and the spate of earthquakes which rocked the area last year.
Spanish man beats Google and claims the "Right to be forgotten"
Finally, in a landmark judgement in Luxembourg the European Court of Justice found in favour of a Spaniard who demanded that Google remove the links between his name and a forced property sale he undertook in 1998, on the grounds that he should be granted “the right to be forgotten”.
The potential implications of this judgement are huge. It may be possible for anyone to demand that information be removed from the internet, and many fear that it will open the door to manipulative censorship. Can individuals remove reference to their criminal or undesirable past? Is it possible for governments to manipulate the information concerning individual or institutional wrongdoings? Google cannot remove the information from the internet, but if they are obliged to remove it from their search result listings then information can be made extremely hard to find…
Valencia News round-up, www.valenciatoday.es
Pomegranate vandals strike and Torrevieja residents could soon end a long wait to go to the toilet
As is so often the case in Valencia and the Costa Blanca, a number of items related to the tourist sector have featured in this week’s news as the weather begins to warm up and the summer season approaches. Following the continuing growth in passenger numbers at Alicante-Elche airport, where the total looks set to top ten million for the first time this year, it was announced this week that Ryanair is increasing its services offered to and from Alicante next winter. More good news for the area’s hotels, which enjoyed a bumper May holiday weekend.
At the same time, the beaches and marinas of the Comunitat Valenciana have been awarded 135 Blue Flags this year, making it one of the two leading regions in Spain in this respect, and as preparations all along the coast are in full swing for the summer season Guardamar is taking steps to tidy up and protect its palm trees. On a larger scale, Torrevieja Town Hall is taking a long view and beginning work on improving some of the town’s main beaches. In Orihuela, though, the preparations for summer have a distinctly last-minute feel to them, as the Town Hall is now urgently seeking companies to take on the lifeguard and beach services contracts which have still not been awarded with mid-June and the real start of the season only a month away.
Away from tourism, the population of the regional capital began the week in joyous mood after the Desamparados celebrations on Sunday, but were soon brought down to earth, firstly by the news that a woman had died in a gas explosion in the city and then by a sad and unusual case in which the distinction between mercy killing and murder becomes rather blurred. A 78-year-old man ended the life of his terminally ill 74-year old wife before committing suicide, and until further details are known the woman’s death is being included in the gender violence statistics.
Elsewhere in the province of Valencia the police dismantled a hidden marijuana plantation and processing laboratory in Sueca, and if proof were needed that the dry winter and warm weather has heightened the risk of wildfires this year, then it came in the form of two such blazes in Calles and Marines on Wednesday.
Further north in Castellón, the big news was that a report handed in to the national government in December by the national geographical institute concludes that there was a clear relationship between the spate of earthquakes in and around Vinaròs last year and the Castor Project offshore gas storage facility. Most locals will be pleased that this appears to mean that the project is now doomed to permanent closure, but at the same time there is some bafflement as to why the findings have not been made public until five months later. Elsewhere in the province, there was a scare at the Benicarló service station on Tuesday when a hydrochloric acid spillage led to the area being sealed off for a couple of hours.
In the province of Alicante a pomegranate plantation near Elche was the victim of a brutal act of vandalism in which 1,500 trees were destroyed, the arguments over the dog-friendly beach in El Campello moved up a gear as locals threatened to commission microbiological studies and pass on the bill to the Town Hall, and frustrated locals and visitors in Torrevieja will be pleased to hear that relief is on its way for those caught short on the seafront. The Mayor has made a verbal commitment to the installation of public toilets on the promenades, so if the desperate can hang on for just a few months longer they might finally be able to find relief if caught short while shopping!
In the Marina Alta area a jailbird burglar was finally apprehended and will face charges of eleven thefts, and in Orihuela, just as the row over the town’s markets appears to have died down for the moment another conflict has hit the news. This time the dispute concerns ownership of the remarkable “La Diablesa” sculpture by Nicolas de Bussy, which plays a central role in the local Easter Week celebrations, and earlier this week the Church confirmed that it intends to take the matter to court to regain the sculpture for their sacred art museum, taking it away fom the archaeological museum and the control of the council.
However all of this, and probably quite a lot more, may well have gone completely unnoticed by the 80-year-old former Guardia Civil officer who drove down the wrong carriageway of the A-70 Alicante ring-road motorway on Monday. Despite causing an accident while doing so all the signs are that he didn’t even notice his mistake until officers turned up to arrest him when already safely back at home.
Murcia Region news round-up
In the news, meanwhile, the Region of Murcia’s two airports – one open, the other not – continue to attract a great deal of attention. At San Javier passenger numbers continue to suggest that the national airport management company Aena is concentrating on boosting the figures at Alicante-Elche, just 75km away, rather than attracting new services to the Mar Menor airport, while at Corvera, where the brand new Region of Murcia International Airport lies empty while the European Commission debates whether to allow a regional government loan, the number of passengers and planes remains at precisely zero.
However, the tourist season is on the edge of beginning, and the region is preparing for the onslaught. This week it was announced that the number of Blue Flags being flown on the Costa Cálida has risen again this year, and there are now ten in the municipality of Cartagena alone following the addition of Playa Honda and Isla Plana to the list. Águilas runs Cartagena a close second, with eight Blue Flags this summer .
If this does help to attract sufficient numbers to make the airport successful, it would provide some consolation for the Region of Murcia’s taxi-drivers, who are upset that their right to operate services to and from Alicante airport has been restricted and have lodged an official complaint.
Other attractions for visitors from abroad include the regional gastronomy – San Javier has been promoting the “pastel de cierva” in Milan this week - and the fiestas, which over the past week have brought colour and noise to Jumilla and Calabardina.
Elsewhere in the regional news one story to catch the eye was that of a couple of brothel-keepers in Murcia who doubled up as peeping toms, having made closed circuit TV recordings of the establishment’s customers in action, while another to have been found breaking the law was a school bus driver who was under the influence of alcohol at the wheel. Coming just days after the tragedy in Extremadura in which five children lost their lives due to a mechanical digger operator being under the influence of drugs, this is disturbing news.
On a completely different note, the woman who survived being hit by a train in Balsicas must surely be counting herself extremely fortunate: although her injuries are described as “serious”, doctors report that her life is not in danger, and elsewhere in the Region of Murcia the rural crime squad has been busy, arresting various thieves responsible for the disappearance of a range of goods including electricity generators, lambs, a tractor and oranges. The Mazarrón dog pound is also under investigation following reports of cruelty to animals.
Finally, economic news, property sales in the Region of Murcia showed positive results for the month of March, and the financial stability of regional town halls seems to be improving, as spending is brought under control and the brutal costcutting of the alst three years finally seems to be bearing fruit.
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