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Spanish News Today weekly round-up, 23rd May 2014
A toilet snake in Galicia, a baby born on a coastguard ship, the biggest cranes in the world and severe drought in the south-east
Immigrants and customs officers all at sea
The European election campaign reaches its climax in Spain this weekend with the voting on Sunday, and all that can be said is thank goodness for that, as the news has been filled with nothing but an endless and intense round of political debate, protests and public meetings for the last 3 weeks.
Sifting political press releases for other subjects has been a major task, but this week a few interesting stories have emerged from the sea of waving politicians and propaganda, two of those which catch the eye being related to the problem of illegal immigrants attempting to enter EU territory by crossing from Africa into this country. Last weekend another wave of around 500 sub-Saharans was successfully held at bay by Moroccan and Spanish authorities in Melilla, while on Tuesday an example of how desperate some of these immigrants are to get into Spain was the heavily pregnant woman who attempted to cross the Mediterranean in a small boat containing over fifty people. No sooner had they been intercepted by the coast guards than she gave birth: the baby’s birthplace will presumably have to be registered as “somewhere near the isle of Alborán”.
Other aquatic miscreants frequently in the news are drug smugglers, and recently another cause for widespread concern is the new law which makes it impossible for customs authorities to investigate or prosecute non-Spanish drug smugglers intercepted in international waters, and this week saw the release without charges of a further seven Syrian smugglers who had been caught with 16,000 kilos of hashish, following just such an incident. Elsewhere, a drugs ring importing narcotics concealed in reels of paper and crates of bananas has been busted during swoops in Madrid following the arrival of shipments at the ports of Cádiz and Valencia, while in the Region of Murcia and the province of Alicante a network of Lithuanian drug traffickers has been broken up and arrested. At the port of Barcelona, on a slightly different note, ten million illegally imported cigarettes were seized after being unloaded from a container ship.
This proves the point that although Gibraltar is frequently blamed for being the major entry point for contraband cigarettes in Spain, that the problem is widespread and that huge volumes continue to enter via Spanish ports. The row over border checks to stop contraband crossing into Spain has been ongoing since the middle of last year and this week Susana Díaz, the regional president of Andalucía, added her voice to those demanding an end to the conflict between Spain and Gibraltar and a cessation of the intense border checks. The dispute affects tourists and Gibraltarian residents, but those who are paying the highest price are probably the people who suffer long delays when crossing the border every day to go to work, nost of them Spanish residents living in the Campo de Gibraltar and she called the inconvenience they are forced to suffer “inhumane”.
Back on dry land, the government’s new citizen security law continues to provoke strong opposition from many quarters, including Greenpeace, who are worried that the right to protest may be being diminished by the new measures. Reaction to Greenpeace’s last high-profile protest at the half-built mega-hotel of El Algarrobico in Almería consisted of a counter-protest by local residents demanding that the hotel be completed, a saga which looks set to continue for some time in spite of a recent court ruling.
Politicians in the public eye
Politicians across Spain are still recovering from the shock of the head of the provincial government delegation in León being murdered, and in the aftermath of the killing many reactions have revealed that Isabel Carrasco had made a large number of enemies during her career. A strong undercurrent of disrespect for the political class as a whole has risen to the surface, and more than one person has been arrested for publishing threatening or violent comments on the internet durign thsi last week.
Elsewhere, four cranes reported to be the largest in the world were somehow transported all the way from China to Algeciras in the province of Cádiz, and the proposed reopening of a nuclear power plant in the province of Burgos in northern Spain has provoked differing reactions from the two regional governments most affected.
Drought in the south-east
The lack of rainfall in the Region of Murcia, the Comunitat Valenciana and the eastern Andalucía is beginning to cause serious concern among livestock farmers, fruit and vegetable growers and, at long last, regional and national government officials. In Almería there are warnings that even the hardy almond trees could die if it doesn’t rain soon, while in Murcia the farmers of Cehegín have resorted to praying to San Isidro for rain as their crops wither and die in the fields and orchards. In Cartagena, meanwhile, a wildfire destroyed 130 hectares of vegetation, demonstrating once again just how dry the plants and earth are after the sparse rainfall over the last twelve months. Other fires have also been causing concern across southern Spain, as firecrews face the worrying prospect of a busy summer.
Murders in Andalucía
Two murder cases hit the news this week: one is the subject of an investigation after a homeless German murdered a police officer before being gunned down by his companion, with two passers-by in Málaga also suffering bullet wounds. In the other incident, police in Marbella are investigating the discovery of a bullet-riddled body in a roadside ditch.
On the cultural front in Andalucía, the door is open for a Málaga prehistoric megalith museum to be created in Antequera, and access for the disabled at the Alhambra palace has been improved by the addition of a glass elevator.
Wishing they were out of the limelight
Finally, a few people who were in the news this week for reasons they would probably rather forget about. The disobedient smoker who died after setting fire to his own hospital bed in Cádiz is an extreme example, but others include operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé, who has forked out half a million euros to keep the tax authorities off her back, and the thief in Almeria who made it rather too easy to track him down by leaving his mobile phone and his bicycle at the gate of the house he burgled.
Pride of place, though, has to go to the Galicia woman whose visit to the toilet last Sunday ended in her being bitten by an exotic snake which emerged from the plumbing. The effects of the bite wore off quickly, but the embarrassment may last a while longer.
For more Spanish news stories visit www.spanishnewstoday.com
Property news round-up
What a difference a couple of months make!
Until relatively recently the statistics published in Spain regarding the real estate sector continued to portray a picture of unbroken doom and gloom despite the optimistic noises being made by professionals within the sector, but among the figures published recently there are definite signs that something resembling stability or even growth may be in the offing over the rest of 2014.
Both prices and sales figures are still a long way short of proclaiming a state of good health, but the March statistics published by Spain’s notaries show that in the first quarter of this year there were over 45% more residential properties purchased than in the same period in 2013. Obviously it has to be remembered that this is 45% more than a very low number indeed, and there are one-off factors to take into account in explaining the difference – the record low sales following tax modifications last year, Easter falling later in 2014 – but even so it gives genuine grounds for optimism, and with the rate of price falls slowing down there is a chance that the market could become far more buoyant in some areas.
More good news this week came from the Banco de España, who reported that the number of mortgage payment defaults is falling slightly. In the long run this could lead to the banks being rather more generous in giving credit to prospective purchasers, which again would stimulate more sales activity related to non-cash purchasers, especially among first-time buyers. Similarly, there are now fewer cases of forced evictions being carried out by the banks, as alternative solutions are being found in order to make the consequences of mortgage non-payment less traumatic for all concerned.
A word of warning to the owners of second homes in Spain which are currently lying empty: the government is currently putting the finishing touches to its proposed taxation reforms, and many analysts are predicting that the owners of unoccupied second properties could find themselves boosting government revenue as a result. In Catalunya the banks will be paying a special tax on all such homes as of next year, and there is a strong chance that similar measures could be introduced for all owners in the country as a whole. Keep your eyes open for further developments on this front.
Region of Murcia news round-up, 23rd May 2014
Drought, drugs, the Cartagena seagull cull and expats bowling for Spain
Normally it’s a fairly safe bet that the news round-up in the Region of Murcia will include a summary of the latest developments regarding the future of the new airport in Corvera, but this week the main news on this front is that nothing’s happened except the theft of 16,000 metres of copper electrical cables from the airport: the regional government continues to await the green or red light from Brussels regarding the loan which would allow the airport to open, and in the meantime San Javier shows no sign of closing: in fact, two new retailers are opening shops in the airport instead.
The airport saga is closely related to the Region’s tourist sector, which has recently been the subject of attempts to attract more visitors from the Czech Republic and Denmark. A success story in this regard has come to light in Bullas, where it has been agreed that thousands of retired Austrians will be visiting the wine museum as part of a new push into the North-west, with Caravaca de la Cruz and Calasparra also included in the new initiative. Down on the coast, Mazarrón has presented its six Blue Flag beaches to go with those already announced last week, in Los Alcázares the tourist season has been officially inaugurated by local dignitaries taking their first dip of the summer, and as the weather appears set fair (apart from a brief rainy interlude predicted in some quarters for Saturday night) the sector is looking forward to a bumper summer.
In anticipation of the summer to come, the go-ahead has been given to lay down the nets in the Mar Menor ready for jellyfish season and the new regional president has been visiting the area to meet with local mayors, part of which involved a promise that the San Javier Jazz Festival, always popular with tourist visitors, will once again be given institutional support.
Of course, the continued dry spell has its downside as well. The drought is now being monitored by regional and central government departments, while in Cehegín farmers have been praying to San Isidro for rain. The dry conditions also lead to increased risk of wildfires, a fact which was borne out on Wednesday when flames consumed 130 hectares of tinder-dry vegetation in Cartagena.
Aside from tourism, other sectors of the economy have enjoyed good news this week. The Region of Murcia’s balance of payments improved significantly in the first quarter, and while the construction sector remains flat there is optimism that the stock of unsold properties is being reduced at last.
Meanwhile, other regional stories to hit the headlines have included a man in Puente Tocinos who attacked his wife with a meat cleaver before setting fire to his own house (allegations that he suffered psychiatric problems are not hard to believe), the former municipal architect of Los Alcázares being fined 800 euros for pushing the Mayor to the ground, and the breaking up of two drug-smuggling operations, one involving British citizens in Ricote and the other Lithuanians in Los Alcázares. The Guardia Civil were also involved in recovering stolen Roman masonry and antique cannons, while in Cartagena the annual seagull cull is well under way.
Finally, local British expats continue to work hard for local charities, a sponsored walk on the Camino de Santiago raised 5,000 euros for Help Murcia Mar Menor recently, and a couple of ambitious cyclists from Murcia are planning to ride from Murcia to Stroud to raise funds for cancer support. Among those enjoying less strenuous sporting activity are expat Mazarrón bowlers who have been drafted into the Spanish national team.
Smugglers, thieves, a TV chef and a 108-year-old woman
Region of Valencia news round-up, 23rd May 2014. www.valenciatoday.es
After all the excitement of the recent fiestas and ferias there have been few stand-out stories in the Comunitat Valenciana this week, but customs police and inspectors have certainly been busy! A Torrevieja-based group of Lithuanians organizing the transportation to their home country of marijuana from the Mar Menor was busted by the Guardia Civil, while another cartel importing narcotics through the ports of Valencia and Cádiz was dismantled in raids on warehouses in Madrid. At Valencia airport, meanwhile, a couple of inventive Moldovans somehow managed to cram 1,608 packets of cigarettes into their hand luggage when flying in from Istanbul: quite how this was possible has not been explained, but the baggage inspectors cottoned on fairly quickly. The police also confiscated a thousand packets of contraband cigarettes in Elche.
Other criminals in the news included a pair of Moroccans who stole over a ton of used clothes from the recycling collection points in Benifaió, and the disturbing case of a British man who was arrested in the province of Valencia for crimes of child abuse committed over thirty years ago.
One item of constant interest in the region is the burgeoning good health of the tourist industry this year, with more visitors flocking to the Costa Blanca both by air from abroad and by train from Madrid. Foreign tourists will be pleased to know that their coffee comfort opportunities have been improved by the opening of a new establishment at the airport in El Altet, while train travellers will now find the high-speed journey from the national capital taking only just over two hours as a result of a new safety system being installed on the track between Alicante and Albacete.
Among the visitors making an early summer visit to the Costa Blanca has been TV chef Gordon Ramsay, who has been filming Kitchen Nightmares in Els Poblets, while further down the coast in Torrevieja preparations for the summer onslaught are in full swing: the beaches are being spruced up, seven Blue Flags will be flying in the municipality this summer and with a view to the future a delegation of Russian tour operators has been visiting the town.
Mr Ramsay probably won’t have noticed, but while at Alicante airport he could have begun work on another programme called “Taxi Nightmares”. In response to the demands of local drivers from Elche the regional authorities have introduced measures to restrict the activities of cabbies from elsewhere at the airport, but of course in doing so they have incurred the wrath of other taxi drivers, including those who are licensed in Alicante itself. You can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time, but sometimes it seems that you can’t even keep any of them happy any of the time.
Elsewhere, Ikea fans in the Costa Blanca will have to keep trekking up or down the motorway to the new store in Valencia or the existing one in Murcia to satisfy their furniture and meatball cravings as the project to set up a store in Alicante remains stalled, the construction sector is showing signs of rising from the ashes as foreign demand produces an increase in activity, and as the drought continues the dry conditions contributed to almost 100 hectares being ravaged by fire in Calles, in the province of Valencia.
The region was also in the news in connection with the murder of Isabel Carrasco, the president of the provincial government delegation in León, 600 kilometres away. Following her murder there has been something of an upsurge in public expressions of discontent at the country’s political class, and in the Comunitat Valenciana two young people have been arrested for posting comments on the internet which appear to incite others and advocate violence against figures in the public eye.
The Euro-Sterling exchange rate has closed the week at the highest level for some time, making it more cost-effective to transfer money. Good news for those looking to buy a house who will get even more for their money. Click for this weeks currency round up showing the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro. If you would like a free quote to see how much can be saved on regular currency transfers such as a pension, or one-off lump sums such as the purchase of a property, call for a no obligation quote.
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