Category: News

International tourist arrivals slowing down in Spain

Fewer foreign tourists have come to Spain this summer season than in 2017, which was a record year for the sector. International arrivals numbered 9.98 million in the month of July, a 4.9 percent drop from the same period last year.
Spain’s biggest markets have been sending fewer visitors: the number of British tourists fell by 5.6 percent in July, while there was a 11.4 percent drop in visitors from France and 6.2 percent from Germany.
Barring natural events – such as the emissions from the Iceland volcano that paralyzed air traffic for several days in April 2010, slowing down visits to Spain by 13 percent – the figure for July 2018 represents the biggest decline in international tourist arrivals since 2009, when the economic crisis led to monthly drops of between 10 percent and 15 percent.
However, the July figure of 9.98 million international visitors is only “low” compared to last year’s all-time high of 10.5 million. The 10-million threshold has been crossed three times in recent history, twice in the month of August and once in July.
Industry leaders are also pointing to a recovery of alternative sun-and-sand destinations such as Tunisia and Turkey, whose tourism sector had suffered in recent years from terrorist attacks and regional instability. In the case of Turkey, the recent depreciation of the lira has made the country even more attractive to foreign tourists.
Also, exceptionally warm weather in northern Europe has made it unnecessary to fly to Spain to enjoy the beach. France, Britain and even Finland and Norway have experienced a hot summer, while in Russia, the temperature in June was eight degrees higher than usual.
Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto has played down the year-on-year drop from July 2017, saying that the government wants “a strategy based on quality” and “diversification” in order to avoid overcrowding.
“We are going to get behind a strategy based on quality, aware that there is going to be a slowdown in tourism flows. It is already happening,” said Maroto at a news conference in Santander recently.
But the minister also underscored that the accumulated figure for the last seven months shows 47.1 million tourist arrivals, a 0.3 percent rise from the same period last year. She also said that tourist spending has grown 3 percent so far this year.
Maroto added that her department wants to diversify the options for tourists because there are currently “very overcrowded destinations” and this is creating “problems with local residents.” The minister did not directly allude to the anti-tourist sentiment that has cropped up in parts of Spain due to the mass tourism in some city centres.
The Balearic Islands continued to top the list of favourite tourist destinations in July 2018, receiving 24.4 percent of all foreign tourists in Spain. Catalonia ranked second with 23.9 percent, followed by Andalusia with 13.3 percent. In spite of this, arrivals declined in all three regions. The Madrid region experienced the opposite trend, with a 6.7 percent rise in foreign tourists in July. The tourists who did come spent fewer days in Spain compared with other years. The average stay in July was four to seven nights.

Galicia fishing boat impounded in Ireland

A fishing boat from Galicia has been impounded in the Republic of Ireland after its crew were accused of ‘cutting the fins off sharks’. The Virxe da Blanca (‘Virgin in White’) is being held off the port of Castletown in the south of the country after an inspection of its practices led authorities to believe the fishermen were guilty of ‘finning’.
This is illegal in Europe, although common-place in east and south-east Asia, where sharks are caught, their fins removed and the remainder of the creature is thrown back in the sea. The fins – considered a delicacy, especially in China – are then typically made into soup.
In the case of the Virxe da Blanca, which has passed every single inspection up to now, the fishermen say they were acting in accordance with EU norms: after catching Blue Sharks (Prionace Glauca) and whilst cleaning them for future sale, the crew cut off the ‘anal fins’, which are located exactly where the name suggests.
The fishing industry does not consider these ‘fins’; rather, an ‘attachment’ or ‘appendix’, because they are very fragile and do not serve the same purpose as the ‘main’ fins.
Sergio López of the Fishing Producers’ Organisation (OPP) in Lugo, which the boat – based in Burela – belongs to, says all previous inspections of the Virxe da Blanca’s Blue Shark-catching practices have been signed off as legal, and believes the vessel has been impounded due to a ‘misunderstanding’.
According to López, the Secretary-General for Fishing has already written to port and fishing authorities, and is hoping the issue will be ‘satisfactorily cleared up’ very soon.
And Spain’s industry for fishing says it is waiting to hear back from its counterpart in Ireland, but assures that the crew has not been formally accused of any offence against EU regulations.
The 13-strong multi-national crew, of whom three are from Galicia, used to fish off Spain’s northern coast catching white tuna, known as Bonito in Spain and a popular dish in fish restaurants along the Cantabrian Sea regions, but were experiencing disappointing results from their trade and decided to branch out internationally two years ago.

Orihuela Patron celebrations

It’s fiesta time in Orihuela as the municipality prepares to honour its patron saint, the Virgin of Monserrate. The celebrations include a full schedule of entertainment featuring a variety of fun performances and musical concerts.
The Councillor for Festivities, Mariola Rocamora, has detailed the entire programming lined up for the traditional festivities which will run from Thursday 6th to Sunday 16th September. Whilst announcing the programme of events, the Councillor was accompanied by Paco Serna, vice president of the Archconfraternity of the Virgin of Monserrate, who was in charge of ensuring the liturgical and religious events are at the centre of the celebrations.
The event began on Thursday with a mass at 8pm, which has been celebrated by the residents of the Rabaloche for the last 10 years, this was followed by the transfer of the icon from its Sanctuary to the Cathedral of El Salvador and an evening serenade concert. The events continued over the weekend and this week, on Wednesday the 12th, the programme resumes with the representation of the children’s musical concert “La bruja Eloise”, which will take place in the Ramón Sijé square starting at 9:30pm, with an evening of fun theatre and music for the whole family.
On Thursday 13th September at 9:30pm, also in the Ramón Sijé square, a concert will be given by the Orihuela-based “Troupers Swing Band” combining their own songs with versions of swing and rockabilly.
On Saturday, 15th September, there will be the traditional ‘besamanto’ of the Virgin of Monserrate, taking place from 10am to 2pm and from 6pm, “where the Association of Agronomist Engineers of Orihuela will celebrate the Virgin from 12.00 noon.
The celebrations will finish with a spectacular fireworks display which marks the Virgin Monserrate’s transfer back to her sanctuary on Sunday 16th September at 8pm just after the final mass of the fiesta, which starts at 7pm which will be presided over by Jesús Murgui, Bishop of the Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante.
All residents from across the municipality and beyond are invited to celebrate this fiesta of honour, as Orihuela´s patron is once more given the tribute she deserves, before resting for another year.
The Virgin of Montserrat, popularly known as La Moreneta, is also the patron saint of Catalonia. Our Lady of Montserrat or the Virgin of Montserrat is a Marian title associated with a venerated statue of the Madonna and Child venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery on the Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia, Spain.
The famed image once bore the inscription ”Negra Sum Sed Formosa” which translates from Latin as: I am Black, but Beautiful.
Pope Leo XIII granted the image a Canonical coronation on 11 September 1881. The image is one of the Black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, La Moreneta (“the little dark-skinned one” or “the little dark one”). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church. However, it is more likely a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century.
An 18th century polychromed statue of the same image is also displayed in Saint Peter’s basilica, previously stored in the Vatican Museums which was gifted by the President of Brazil, Joao Goulart on the Papal election of Pope Paul VI in 1963. The image has been on display for Papal masses since the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

Mallorca property scam victims “unprotected”

Around 60 people who have been affected by an alleged scam in Mallorca, in which properties that didn’t exist were put on sale, say that they feel “unprotected” under current Spanish law, and are calling for new regulations so that episodes like this one cannot happen again.
The real estate company ‘Mallorca Investment’ was offering off-plan properties in a number of areas on the Balearic island, at below-market prices. Clients handed over 10 percent of the sale price as a deposit, and when the future owners had seen that the plans were filed with the local council, the alleged scammers would take advantage of the situation and ask for more money. However, time would then pass and construction would never began. When the clients demanded explanations, no information was forthcoming.
The Civil Guard has so far arrested six people from developer Lujo Casa and the real estate agency Mallorca Investment, who are accused of keeping the deposits handed over by clients. The amount of money swindled from the victims totals more than €4 million, according to sources from the investigation, which could make this the biggest scam ever perpetrated in the history of the Balearic Islands.
The owner of Mallorca Investment, a businessman identified by his initials M. P., and who is of Italian origin, is currently being held in police custody before being brought before a judge. He is suspected of offenses of fraud and money laundering. The Italian businessman posted numerous photos of his luxury lifestyle on Facebook, including trips with his family all over the world, business-class flights to Thailand, holiday in Japan, hotel stays in Dubai and car trips in Cuba.
The owner of the developer Lujo Casa, identified by his initials C. G. R., fled Spain more than four months ago, when the first complaints from fraud victims put him in the spotlight.
Claims began to arrive in the month of March, and in May some of the affected families filed a lawsuit at a court in Palma de Mallorca, demanding all bank accounts be frozen and for an international arrest warrant to be issued for the promoter, who, sources from the investigation report, is currently in a South American country.
“We suspected that we were looking at a case of fraud,” a victims’ statement reads, “after determining that construction had not begun, that a number of the plots of land were not theirs, and that any changes we wanted to the plans were possible and free. We met with a lawyer who confirmed what we already suspected: that this had the look of a pyramid scheme.”
More victims joined the initial dozen or so original claimants, with the total thought to number around 200, many of whom are from outside Spain.
The victims report that the developer first moved to Barcelona, and then to Valencia, which is where they lost all trace of him. The victims also slammed the owner of the real estate firm, who claimed that he had also been conned. “From the first moment Mallorca Investment introduced itself as a partner,” the victims said in their statement.
The average amount that each person has lost is around €30,000, although there are more extreme cases, such as a foreign man who handed over more than €200,000 on the promise of a luxury apartment close to the sea. Among the victims are young couples who were seeking their first home, retirees, and families with young children.
All of the victims say that they feel “unprotected” due to changes made to the law in 2006, ending the right for anyone who had lost money in the purchase of an off-plan property to reclaim the funds from their insurance company or bank.
“We all trusted that, by making a bank transfer to a real estate company account, our money was protected; we thought that this kind of account was controlled by the banks and that it wasn’t so easy to take money out,” the victims’ statement reads. “Although this man was moving it around as he pleased.”
The victims have called on the authorities to take measures to ensure that episodes like this one are not repeated. They argue that “the only law that protected us” was abolished to the benefit of the banks.

Brit MP fights alleged wrongful arrest

A British MP has stepped into a drug case after an British businessman was imprisoned two months ago for 1.5 tonnes of hashish found in airbnb he was renting.
Chichester MP Gillian Keegan has been in touch over the arrest of Robert Anthony Mansfield-Hewitt, who has yet to be charged since being arrested over drug-dealing claims in June. Mr Mansfield-Hewitt is seriously ill and has been locked up with terrorists for more than two months in Spain.
The consultant engineer, who insists he is innocent, has yet to be charged over the 1.5 tonnes of hashish police found in the garage of the villa, he rented through Airbnb. He insists he has absolutely ‘no connection’ to the drugs that were being stored at the lodging in Campamento, in San Roque.
On the other hand, according to reports in local newspapers, the owner of the villa was charged for importing cocaine into Gibraltar last year.
Mr Mansfield-Hewitt’s local MP is said to be ‘very concerned’ about the situation and was speaking to his secretary in Gibraltar, where his company has a base.
In a case that also has strange parallels to the plight of Scottish student Robbie McMiller who was arrested in October last year after six marijuana plants were found in his rental property, Mansfield-Hewitt was woken up and ‘dragged out of bed practically naked at gunpoint’ by police officers at 8.30pm on 27th June.
Colleagues and friends believe that Mansfield-Hewitt, who has a PhD and no criminal record, is an ‘innocent man’ and has been wrongfully imprisoned. They added that the Chichester-based engineer is currently in a critical condition and is being held in the medical wing at Botafuegos prison in Algeciras – a dangerous jail, which notoriously houses a number of Basque ETA terrorists.
Robert’s PA Pilar Ford told local newspapers that she had not had any contact with Robert since18th August. “We have not had any telephone calls – it’s very worrying,” she said, “Usually he calls two to three times a week.”
Robert’s lawyer, Jose Maria Castro Escudero, said that a judge was due to visit the prisoner and make a decision on whether to grant bail or not but there has been no further developments. “He is desperate,” added Castro Escudero

Stolen babies case continues

Spain’s first trial linked to thousands of suspected cases of babies stolen from their mothers during the Franco dictatorship wrapped up last week with prosecutors seeking 11 years jail for the elderly former gynaecologist in the dock.
Eduardo Vela, 85, a former gynaecologist at the now-defunct San Ramon clinic in Madrid, is accused of having in 1969 taken Ines Madrigal, now aged 49, from her biological mother and given her to another woman who then raised her and was falsely certified as her birth mother.
“In this country, a person who played God — changing people’s parentage, faking birth certificates like in my case and negating the right to know one’s origins — cannot remain unpunished,” Madrigal told reporters at the end of the hearing in Madrid.
She said she hoped the trial, whose verdict could come within a month, would help open “thousands of cases that are closed” even if she would never know who her real mother was.
Activists say around 2,000 similar cases dating back to General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship of 1939 to 1975 have failed to make it to court in Spain because of a lack of evidence or because the time limit to file charges has passed.
In a dark and often overlooked chapter of the right-wing dictatorship, the newborns of some left-wing opponents of the regime, as well as of unmarried or poor couples, were removed from their mothers and adopted.
New mothers were frequently told their babies had died suddenly within hours of birth and the hospital had taken care of their burials, but in fact they were given or sold to another family.
Baby stealing began after Franco came to power following the 1936-39 civil war pitting left-wing Republicans against conservative Nationalists loyal to the general. It was part of an effort to purge Spain of Marxist influence.
It was expanded to take newborns from poor families as well as illegitimate babies, and went on as an illegal trafficking network during democracy until at least 1987 when a new law was introduced to better regulate adoption.
Enrique Vila, a lawyer who has written extensively about the “stolen babies” scandal, said Vela’s trial could provide “moral” encouragement for other victims to bring forward lawsuits.
“There are dozens of doctors and nuns across Spain who are guilty” and who are still alive, he told Spanish news agency AFP.
During questioning in the opening session of the trial on 26th June, Vela said he could not remember details of how the clinic, which he ran for 20 years up to 1982 and is believed to have been a centre for baby trafficking, operated. He added that the signature on Madrigal’s birth certificate was not his.
Vela — the first person prosecuted over the “stolen babies” scandal which broke in the media in the 1980s — was due to return to the witness stand the following day but instead he went to hospital after falling ill. He is accused of falsifying official documents, illegal adoption, unlawful detention and certifying a non-existent birth.
The probe into the case was not without its difficulties, with a policeman declaring in court that Vela burnt his clinic’s archives.
But the agent insisted that “there was a plot to which Mr. Vela probably belonged” that consisted in taking babies from single mothers who were in shelters that were often run by religious orders.
Emilie Helmbacher, a French journalist, also testified by videoconference. In an investigation in Madrid in December 2013, she used a hidden camera to record Vela as he appeared to confess to having given Madrigal away as a “gift” in June 1969.
In the recording, he said “Ines Madrigal’s mother did not pay” for her.
Vela’s lawyer Rafael Casas criticised the hidden camera recording and said his client had “nothing to do” with what he is accused of.
Another witness, Paz Gordon, who stepped in as godmother for Madrigal’s baptism, told the court that the actual mediator in her case was a Jesuit priest.
The cases echo events that took place during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Courts there have since handed down lengthy jail terms for the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.

Symphony orchestra programme 2018-2019

Symphony orchestra programme 2018-2019
Torrevieja Symphony Orchestra (OST) presented their annual programme for the year 2018-19 to the press. This year will be the 10th anniversary of the orchestra and will include six concerts with European artists and four concerts of Chamber Music. A book has also been produced that summarises the history of the past decade for the orchestra and will be presented on the 24th October to the public.
The classic performances will begin with the music of Tchaikovsky and Dvorak on 27th October. On 2nd December there will be a soloist flute performance by Jordi López who will play an interpretation of Mozart and Schubert. There will be two concerts to celebrate the new year and the Christmas Kings on 5th and 6th January. This will include waltzes, polkas and Spanish music. On 2nd March a concert will be held in honour of the Nordic audience with the music of Grieg.
In the spring, the OST has prepared a concert of popular movie sound tracks such as Out of Africa, Jurassic Park, Gladiator and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The spring programme will conclude with Spanish music on 11th May.
Director, José Francisco Sánchez, took time to thank the board of directors who have helped the orchestra to grow from a chamber group to the orchestra it is now. ‘I always had the goal of filling the International Auditorium,’ he explained. ‘That dream has been fulfilled with more than 20 concerts being held this year.’
The OST’s performances at the International Auditorium have proved to be particularly popular with residents from many different countries including Germany, Belgium, Norway and Sweden as well as amongst those resident torrevejenses who are now taking up the opportunity to make the most of the auditorium on the hill.
Along with the OST programme there will also be four concerts of Chamber Music that will be held in the Auditorium chamber room. This room has 420 seats altogether. The cost of this is reasonable at only eight euros entry for the general public and seven euros for those who are members.
The violinist, Stanislav Tkach outlined the dates for the four Chamber Music concerts and said that throughout his travels to 22 different countries he had never met such a welcoming audience. The performances will begin on 15th September at 8pm and the first one will include a selection of Beethoven and Shostakovich.
The second concert includes compositions by Mozart and will take place on 26th January. The third is scheduled for 20th April and will celebrate Holy Week with the music of Handel, Vivaldi and Bach. The last concert will be on 8th June and will include interpretations of Mozart and Haydn.
The president also pointed out that this year there will be a bus service up to the auditorium with pick up from the Eras de la Sal, the Hotel Fontana and the BP petrol station in town. A service that’s believed to be particularly useful for pensioners and those who live further away.Anyone wishing to buy tickets for the concerts can do so between 10am and 1pm and from 5pm and 7pm at calle Vicente Blasco Ibáñez number 23.

Bullying and harassment in the police force

This is the third time that that the local police force in Torrevieja has been investigated for the possibility of bullying at work. This time the court number 1 in Elche has criticised the previous administration at the town hall for its involvement.
The bullying and harassment of a Local Police officer is thought to have been going on for years. Now, the victim has been awarded €95,816 in damages for psychological difficulties resulting from the continued behaviour of his colleagues.
The court accused the town hall of not intervening in the bullying at any time during its jurisdiction. It is claimed that councillors were aware of the situation due to the number of denuncias that had been made about it.
The police officer began working in 2010 and recognised that there were irregularities in the control of cash that was being collected from fines. He also realised that there were frequent inspections of some leisure facilities whilst others remained unchecked even though there were bad reports about them.
The police officer, along with two colleagues, reported the incidents and following this his persecution began. It included changing shifts without warning, being denied holidays, having to carry out numerous shifts without a break and word being spread to the traffic division that he should no longer drive.
The officer was denied extra pay, received humiliating correspondence and was subjected to degrading situations. He was insulted on almost a daily basis and in front of everyone but no one did anything. The investigating magistrate said that those complicit with the crime, including councillors and inspectors, tried to justify their approach but statements were contradictory to the evidence given by others.
The two police chiefs accused of this crime have already been convicted for workplace harassment twice before. In these cases compensation had to paid out of €48,500 and €23,450.

British men seriously injured in stabbing

Two British men were left seriously injured after an attack in Torrevieja. The two men were stabbed during a fight which happened early Thursday morning. The fight took place in the San Luis/ El Chaparral urbanisation when the English confronted some individuals of Romanian nationality. The injured were taken to Torrevieja hospital for surgery.
It is believed that the origin of the dispute began at 1am in a bar on calle Rodrigo. For reasons unknown, a fight started and punches were thrown. Later the Romanians are believed to have returned to the area this time with knives.
During the attack two British men were stabbed, one of around 60 years old was stabbed in the back and in the thorax and the other of around 30 years old received a stab wound in the left armpit near his heart. The wounds led to the loss of a great amount of blood as could be seen in the street where the stabbing took place.
The incident was attended by the Local Police and the Guardia Civil as well as two SAMU units and an ambulance. The men were treated at the spot and then transferred to the hospital. News from the hospital confirmed that the men were operated on after being admitted into A & E. It is believed that they are now out of danger and are stable but will remain in hospital due to the severity of their injuries.
It is believed that one of the attackers lost his mobile during the incident and this has now been retrieved by the police who have been able to identify him. The man is now being sought by the Guardia Civil who are leading the investigation.

Vandals desecrate RBL memorials to brave British soldiers

There was outrage amongst members of the Royal British Legion as a cross to fallen war
heroes and an RBL time capsule were both found to have been vandalised in recent
separate attacks in Mil Palmeras and Torrevieja.
Mil Palmeras, the RBL time capsule which sits alongside the Remembrance Garden in the
forecourt of the Catholic Church Capilla de las Mil Palmeras was attacked. The time capsule
sits under a heavy glass cover which looked as though it had been shattered with a heavy
bar or hammer. The time capsule contains a number of specially chosen items which depict
the establishment and evolution of the Orihuela and Costa District Branch. This includes
documents, photographs and CD’s all of which were laid in whats was thought to be a safe
haven for future generations to enjoy.
Committee member and RBL Standard Bearer Eddie Coleman, was first to notice the
smashed cover and has since been hard at work repairing the damage. He had to remove
the ruined glass and cover the plinth with a temporary top until such time as a new cover
can be ordered. Mr Coleman also said that whilst he was carrying out the repair he found
evidence of drug usage by the side of the monument.
In La Siesta, just outside the Parish Church, the marble base of the cross standing in the RBL
Memorial Garden has also been damaged by someone using a heavy object and although
the incidents are thought not to be related, it’s a double blow for the organisation, which
now has to pay for the repairs. The base of the cross also appears to have been dealt several
heavy blows with a hammer. The mindless vandalism has left the rectangular base smashed,
resulting in several thousands of euros worth of damage.
The vandalism in La Siesta was first noticed by Pastor Keith Brown, the Chaplain of the Royal
British Legion in Spain North, who regularly visits the monument to pay his respects.
Keith said: “I was absolutely mortified when I first saw the destruction that the vandals had
caused. Although I have asked around, nobody seems to have any information about the
incident so there seems to be little that we can do. I will be speaking to my fellow priests at
La Siesta Church, along with the President and Chairman of the Torrevieja RBL branch to see
how we can stop it from happening again.”

School year dates released

The dates for the Alicante province have now been released for the new
school year. Hopefully students should already know that:
 Primary schools in Alicante city begin on 7 th September
 All other schools in Alicante Province begin on 10 th September
If you have a child in a school in Torrevieja or Orihuela and surrounding towns
then they should have their bags and equipment ready for Monday 10 th
September. For children starting at primary schools, classes will only be from
9am until 1pm for the month of September. The full school day resumes from
October until May. June again reverts to a 1pm closing.
Public holidays in Alicante Province mean that the terms will be:
First term (Autumn term)
Monday 10 th September until Friday 21 st December (inclusive)
Schools will be closed for bank holidays:
 9 th October (Valencia Day)
 12 th October (Spain Day)
 1 st November (All Saints Day)
 6 th December (Day of the Constitution)
Second term (Spring term)
Monday 7 th January until Wednesday17 th April (inclusive)
Schools will be closed for bank holidays:
 19 th March (San José Day, Father’s Day)
Third term (Summer term)
Primary schools: Tuesday 30 th April until Thursday 20 th June (inclusive)
Secondary schools: Tuesday 30 th April until Tuesday 18 th June (inclusive)
Schools will be closed for bank holidays:
 1 st May (Workers Day)
Although these dates are the ones currently released for the Alicante Province
be aware that there will be some additional ones to follow that are determined
locally. At least though parents across the province can start planning their

Does the Eras de la Sal need a licence too?

The subject of opening and activity licences in Torrevieja continues. Now it’s
the Eras de la Sal that’s in the spotlight. The Eras de la Sal is the old part of
town where many concerts and outdoor events take place, including the
international Habaneras choral competition.
There now seems to be uncertainty as to whether the area has the necessary
activity licence to host the events that it currently does. The use of the Eras de
la Sal has become particularly important as the previous location for many
events, the Municipal Theatre, remains closed.
According to a report from the town planning department, a license is
necessary and currently is not in place. The activity licence guarantees that a
public show has the minimum safety and evacuation measures along with the
correct insurance, medical cover and private security. This applies whoever
the show is organised by, whether it is a private company or a town hall
The delay in the performance of La Unión and the cancellation of the Luz
Casal concerts are believed to have been linked to this controversy. With
more concerts to come, including that of Kiko Veneno and Los Secretos on
Friday, it is hoped that the confusion is rectified soon.