Radio

Weekly News from Spain – 18-05-2013

A roundup of the main news stories from Spain this week, with health, transport and local stories featuring, with education being the biggest issue.

If you like, you can even read along, although I have added one or two more in the recording…

EDUCATION

The Orihuela Councillor for Education, Rosa Martínez, has been giving a guided tour to the regional socialist deputy of education, Miguel Soler, in order to show him the state of the unfinished schools on the Orihuela Costa, so as to gather support from the regional opposition group to put pressure on the education authority to complete the building of the facilities, as the tenth anniversary is being recognised of pupils of the coast being educated in “temporary” portacabin schools.

Martínez explained that despite multiple communications and faxes sent persistently to various agencies of the Department of Education in Valencia to find a solution to this situation, the Orihuela local council has not received any reply or acknowledgement, and the regional group has cancelled two scheduled appointments with the municipal Mayor, Monserrate Guillén, in the last two months alone.

The councillor said that “there are students who have completed their entire compulsory education in barracks”, which she describes as an “educational indignity”, whilst also pointing out that the municipal council are unaware of the reasons why the work on the new secondary school, which started again in September, has since stopped.

In a direct response to his visit, Miguel Soler has announced that the Parliament Socialist Group will present a non-legislative proposal, urgently demanding that “the Department resolved the situation by implementing a clear deadline and firm schedule” for the completion of these educational facilities because it is “incomprehensible to accept that a school has been in barracks for 10 years”, which has already educated “an entire generation without having gone to a worthy school facility”.

Meanwhile, Rosa Martínez announced the cuts to education being forced upon the area by the authorities in Valencia for the next academic year, with 13 teaching posts being slashed, this on top of the 23 already lost last year, meaning a total of 36 teachers have been axed in two years, as well as another 6 classes being dropped, again on top of the 13 that were eliminated last year, totalling 19 groups from two academic courses being amalgamated.

Of the six classes being removed, Villar Palasí and Manjón will lose one each, as well as two in the Virgen de Desamparados, one in Nuestra Señora de Belén and another in Los Dolses. Martínez stated that the local education board have been arguing against these cuts, but this has been unsuccessful, given the “geographical mobility of students this year that can be derived from the creation of the single district school in the township”.

Rosa Martínez has also stated that she feels that these cuts will result in a “significant reduction in the quality of teaching in primary education, a fundamental stage in which school is the future of students” , and has warned of the economic difficulties being experienced by the company contracted to provide the school buses, as well as those operating school canteens, who are “in serious trouble for debts accumulated with the regional administration”. In one school in Orihuela alone, the debt to a company serving food there stands at 130,000 euro, according to the councillor.

HEALTH

The Valencia government has made a payment to pharmacists this week, under the threat of supplies running short, amounting to 42% of the April bill, or around 40 million euro. The remaining 52% has been promised by the end of the month. Pharmacists therefore suspended a meeting planned for Thursday in which they were intending discussing an action plan.

A number of fine dining restaurants across Valencia, mainly serving Mexican food, are seeking a change in the laws and regulations appertaining to insects, as they are currently struggling to abide by the regulations when it comes to serving insects as part of a meal. Their case resolves around a United Nations report that suggests eating insects in the only way of ensuring the future sustainability of the planet, and a number of standard Mexican dishes already include a platter of bugs. However, food hygiene regulations mean that the insects being served to diners would fall foul of the law, which is predominantly there to protect those diners who chose not to eat bugs. One supplier in Barcelona has already been shut down by the authorities, which may prompt restaurants to seek alternative supplies of grasshoppers, ants and other insects served on a regular basis.

The Guardia Civil have arrested a 30 year old Spanish woman at the Hospital Universitario de Sant Joan in Alicante, charged with a crime of “usurpation of functions” as she posed as a nurse in the hospital, wearing a white coat and mask, and visiting the gynaecology department to collect urine samples from patients, although none of the patients who were said to have been asked actually responded by providing the samples, but a couple of them alerted genuine hospital staff who raised the alarm. A second woman was also arrested, said to have been acting along with the first, but has not been charged with any offences at this time.

The Terra Natura animal park at Murcia has opened the inscription period for young people between the ages of 3 and 12 years of age to join them for their summer school, designed to enhance the education at schools, but in a unique environment, offering a program that will include English, visual and artistic crafts, traditional table games, recreational and educational workshops, theatre, cinema, workshops, relaxation and concentration, among other activities. The initiative will begin on June the 24th and will be operational until September the 8th, at a cost of 260 euro for a month, or 150 euro for evenings only, with payment also available at 150 euro and 80 euro respectively for a fortnight.

TRANSPORT

Turkish Airlines has added Spain´s Santiago De Compostela airport to its list of new routes beginning on the 21st of May. With existing services to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga and Bilbao, this is now the 6th destination served in Spain. Operating 3 times per week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays in both directions, introductory round trip fares are available from Istanbul to Santiago De Compostela starting at 99 euro, including taxes and fees.

Popular airline Vueling has announced a new flight from Alicante to start in October, connecting the Costa Blanca with Bilbao in the north of Spain. The airline will now be offering a total of 8 destinations from Alicante with 338,000 seats available. The Bilbao service will operate on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, in both directions, with tickets already on sale.

Up to the end of April this year, so called “low cost” airlines transported 832,338 passengers at Alicante airport, representing an increase of 8.6%, according to data released on Thursday by the Institute of Tourism Studies. In Spain overall, these airlines carried 8.1 million passengers during the period, representing an increase of 0.2% over the same period last year. In contrast, traditional carriers moved 7.8 million passengers in the first four months, an increase of 5.8% on the same period in 2012. Low cost airlines therefore accounted for more than half of all air traffic passengers, at 51%, compared to traditional airlines.

Having started test runs this week, the arrival of the AVE high speed train will be a reality in Alicante by next month, according to the Ministry of Development, in close collaboration with Renfe and ADIF, the two companies behind the project. The date set for the first high speed run, at up to 220 kilometres per hour, is Sunday, June the 23rd, to coincide with the celebrations of the bonfires of San Juan.

VEGA BAJA

A trial by jury was launched by the provincial court in Elche on Tuesday, against a Guardia Civil officer who is accused of a crime of bribery, after a Chinese citizen was allegedly asked to pay 200 euro to avoid being arrested. The officer was on duty, in uniform, with a partner when the alleged incident took place in September 2010, in which the accused is said to have used “gestures and voice” to indicate the payment, although the transaction never took place. The prosecutor has asked for a 300 euro fine and a two year ban from public service.

The town hall of San Isidro are looking at trying to pass a law that bans trucks from driving through the centre of the town, under the socialist lead of Mayor Fernando Morales, due to the large increase of garbage disposal vehicles taking waste from Torrevieja, Orihuela Costa and Pilar de la Horadada to the processing plant at Cox. Although using the AP7 motorway might be the favourable route, the town is in the centre of a popular cut-through that eliminates a corner of the motorway network and is therefore faster. However, the increase in this sort of traffic has upset the residents, as, according to the Mayor, “they always leave the smell of garbage and make noise”.

Spokesperson for the Compromís group, Tomás Mestre, has complained to the city of Alicante, stating that he cannot believe “that a city like Alicante, who wants to remain a leader in tourism, keeps most of its tourist information offices closed on Sundays”, thus denying a basic service for visitors. Mestre said that with the exception of the office in La Rambla, none of the information points open on a Sunday, a key day for tourists to visit, and they all close far too early in the evening, especially during the summer months, when Alicante receives the largest influx of tourists. The group says that this is indicative of the neglect that tourism receives, which also translates into the poor picture of the city that has led to a significant drop in cruise ships to the port, as well as a lack of coordination of cultural and historical points of interest.

Police from the Generalitat Valenciana, who have been taking a more active role in law enforcement across the entire region, have identified 85 workshops which are operating illegally, of the 572 inspections carried out, 128 of which were across the Alicante province. Offences range from infringements of employee rights to licensing issues, and 6 people have so far been arrested in the operation that began in November last year.

The town hall of Callosa de Segura has received a grant of 171,059 euro, with which they intend to hire 41 unemployed locals for a 3 month period. The funding is part of an Employment Promotion Programme aimed at “depressed rural areas” and is intended for employing people in roles that can help regenerate the area, cleaning of gullies, landfills, roads, ditches, parks and gardens, and the likes.

ORIHUELA

The Department of Infrastructure, Maintenance Services of Orihuela has made a small fortune this week, by tidying up the municipal cleaning storage and adding other junk found whilst cleaning up Rubalcava during the rains before Easter, and selling the 3,540 kilos of surplus product and tools, accumulated over the past few years and now unusable, for scrap. Given the weight of the items scavenged, the technicians of the department estimated that the town hall may be about 1,000 euro better off, not bad for useless scrap just lay around, which will go towards paying off the municipal debt.

Leading Partido Popular politician, David Costa, often tipped in the past to have been Mónica Lorente´s replacement as a future mayor, has stepped down after 10 years as president of the new generation of PP members, the Nuevas Generaciones del Partido Popular de Orihuela, making way for 23 year old Antonio Sánchez, a civil engineering student, who Costa has described as “passionate about politics and passionate about Orihuela”. During the handover ceremony held on Tuesday at the headquarters of the PP, Costa advised his successor to be “aware of their new responsibilities as President in the most important political formation of the moment”, whilst also emphasising the strength behind the new and fresher team.

Orihuela Local police arrested a 45 year old man, said to be of Russian nationality, who was found to have been driving in the Aquamarina area of the Orihuela Costa, despite providing a positive result for alcohol which was four times the permitted limit. The officers observed the vehicle driving erratically and proceeded to stop the driver, who then performed a breath test which gave a result of 1.05 mlg / l, while the legal limit is 0 25 mlg / l. He was therefore arrested and summoned to appear before a judge for a crime against road safety.

Officers from the Orihuela Local Police arrested two women, aged 23 and 64, in a supermarket in Alameda del Mar this week accused of stealing 19 personal care products, with a total value of 68.67 euro. The officers received the call of the store´s security staff, who claimed to have detained two women who had been the authors of the theft and that he had escaped. They were apprehended, arrested and taken to the Guardia Civil barracks in Pilar de la Horadada.

Historic Orihuela cyclist Bernardo Ruiz, now 89 years of age, met with the Mayor of the municipality, Monserrate Guillén, and the councillor for sports, Luis Galiano, to announce that he has received an invitation from the organisers of the Tour de France, which this year celebrates its centenary, to attend a ceremony in Paris recognising the achievements of cyclists thorough the history of the race. Ruiz participated in eight races, finishing seven of them, and came third in 1952. He was also the first Spanish rider to win the Giro d’Italia stage, and was champion of Spain for five years.

TORREVIEJA

Whilst visiting Torrevieja this week, the regional Councillor for Infrastructure, Isabel Bonig, explained that the work on the new market and recreation site near the Aquopolis water park, which was set to host the fair ground and Friday market, amongst other things, has “not been paralysed”, but that the 5,328,885 million euro project had been temporarily halted as the city Mayor, Eduardo Dolón, has requested an amendment to the plan in which a dedicated cycle route was created from the city centre to the new site, a fact clearly forgotten by Dolón when asked numerous times about the lack of activity on the site. Bonig stated that the work will recommence soon.

The Generalitat has “no date” for the implementation of the Torrevieja desalination plant, according to the minister responsible for water, José Císcar, who made the statement at the general meeting of the Federación de Comunidad de Regantes de la Comunidad Valenciana, the group who consolidate information for those involved in irrigation across the region. Císcar continued to emphasise with the attendees of the conference, saying that “will have to look for” a use for desalinated water for irrigation because, as he explained, “desalinated water has a price that our farmers cannot afford”.

Statistics revealed this week show that the month of April closed with 10,646 registered workers unemployed in Torrevieja, 0.6% more than in March, when 10,583 people out of work, according to the Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal, or Sepe. The rise in unemployment has mainly affected the service sector, which saw an increase of 53 people, representing 0.73%, while unemployment in the construction sector rose 0.2%. The early Easter season is thought to have played a part in the service sector figures, as the post season job losses took hold until the next tourist season of summer.

The young socialist group of Torrevieja has asked for the city council to provide detailed accounts of the cost of rental and installation of the bull ring for the May Fair, as well as insisting that the event organisers should foot the bill, rather than paying for the structure from municipal funds. They also want clarification as to the reason for the cancellation of the bull fight and horse show, and whether it was poor ticket sales that led to the cancelation.

The Councillor for Infrastructure, Planning and the Environment of the Generalitat Valenciana, Isabel Bonig, has announced an important step towards providing access to social housing for families of Torrevieja, with the signing of an agreement between the provincial and local groups. The agreement will allow for an initial 18 homes becoming available for families who meet the required criteria, through a development launched in 2008 by the Instituto Valenciano de la Vivienda (IVVSA), in Sector 9 of Los Hoyos, on calle Los Geranios, on a plot of land donated by the city of Torrevieja of nearly 5,000 square meters. Following the agreement mentioned, the two government groups will create joint working committees for the study and evaluation of any cases that arise. These subsidized homes have two bedrooms in an average area of 70 square meters, incorporating a number of architectural solutions and improvements in sustainability, such as private solar panels on the roof to power the house.

Following the opening of a road through the fishing port of Torrevieja, an agreement was signed this week between the Mayor of the city, Eduardo Dolón, and the region of Valencia, for the local police to assume the responsibility for safety, security and traffic movements through the harbour area. The transfer of powers is seen as a positive move which will allow the local police to act against an increasing amount of vandalism in the area, in particular to boats and buildings in the vicinity.

An Inspector of the Torrevieja local police has opened a disciplinary case against four police officers, after the councillor for security provided a CCTV still picture of their patrol vehicle parked on the pavement at La Mata whilst the officers were carrying out surveillance work at the weekly market. The complaint is said to be an “eye for an eye” matter, after the councillor received a parking ticket for leaving his car in a restricted zone, later to have the signs changed so as to avoid paying for his actions. A union representative of the officers said, “there are thousands and thousands of occasions where the police park their vehicle on a sidewalk, and never until today, has any councillor or police chief, had thought of the idea to initiate proceedings for these events”. There is also a level of irony in that the image shows a vehicle from the G.R.O. squad, who are specifically tasked to deal with illegal trading by the so called “looky looky men” street vendors, and yet, despite the continual praise levied towards the value of the CCV system in Torrevieja, it is never used for taking action against this sort of crime, which would save time, effort and money if it were.

The Mayor of Torrevieja, Eduardo Dolón, has come out in support of local businesses, by stating that he is objecting to the liberalisation of Sunday opening hours on neighbouring Orihuela, which would allow the Zenia Boulevard and Carrefour stores, as well as all other businesses, to trade on a Sunday.