Saturday, February 28, 2009


Just when the British Government hoped things couldn’t have got any worse – they have. London is already embroiled in the financial crisis, the row over retired bankers pay-offs and pensions, the privatisation of the Post Office and now Gibraltar’s territorial water comes in to the frame. This is not a spat between London and the Rock but between the UK, Spain and also the EU.

The basis by which Gibraltar is British are the terms laid out in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. Nearly 300 years on since its signing it has more holes in it than my old string vest. None-the-less without any more recent agreement that is all we have.

Now Spain has always argued that the treaty sets Gibraltar’s limits purely on the land occupied and that has been exceeded with the pushing of the border closer to La Línea. When it comes to Gibraltar’s waters matters become very choppy indeed.

The Spanish view is that Gibraltar has control of its harbour and nothing else. Hence waters of the bay and the Straits are its. However under international law Gibraltar has a three mile limit plus the median line in the bay and Britain could if it wanted claim 12 miles where that is geographically possible.

Now it emerges that in an EU directive related to environmental matters Spain has claimed responsibility for the majority of the waters surrounding the Rock and Brussels has agreed. The directive aims to protect natural habitats in the Mediterranean and Member States have since 1992 included a listing of the areas that they wish to protect. The United Kingdom had included “Rock of Gibraltar” and “Southern Waters of Gibraltar” as part of the listing of its own sites.

Spain has taken advantage of the updating of the 1992 directive to introduce a new protected area covering all the waters of Gibraltar as if they were Spanish. It was in December that the Andalucía government, at the request of the Spanish Foreign Ministry, included a new “Spanish” conservation area in the directive. The area, which Spain has called “Eastern Straits”, encompasses the same geographical area as the United Kingdom’s “Southern Waters of Gibraltar” and is about five times larger. The Spanish Government has made it clear that this includes all the waters around Gibraltar.

Spain now has EU legal obligations and responsibilities over Gibraltar waters in relation to nature protection. That includes the need to undertake assessments and monitor these areas for wildlife, threats, and other activities with environmental implications. It would follow therefore that Spain has the right to enter Gibraltar’s waters at any time to undertake those tasks.

If the situation wasn’t so serious it would be amusing that it was the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society that sounded the alarm. They were soon joined by the GSLP/Liberal Opposition and the non-elected PDP. It was only later that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office got in on the act caught like startled rabbits in the spotlight of this fiasco.

Apparently now the communications lines between London, Gibraltar and Brussels are glowing red hot as they try to sort out the shambles that has implications for the Rock’s very sovereignty. However given that the British Government didn’t know the size of the toxic debt it was inheriting when it nationalized certain banks or the terms of the pay-offs of failed directors it is hardly surprising that it wasn’t aware that the EU had given Spain responsibility for Gibraltar’s waters. A stormy sea lies ahead!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


A 23-year-old in the Dominican Republic has maintained an erection for six days after taking alcohol and two sexual stimulants. He received medical treatment in Santo Domingo on Wednesday but is still as stiff as a board.

Antonio Rosa went to the hospital with the erection hours after making love but so far the medication from the hospital has failed to deflate his ego. The doctors have no doubt that the problem has been caused by one of the capsules he took and if his penis doesn’t recoil in days an operation may be necessary.

Antonio is rather concerned as he has been told that an operation could leave him impotent. “Eso me preocupa.”

Of course when you reach my advanced age to be stiff for six days would be bliss rather than a problem. I of course refer to my penis – the rest of me is stiff habitually.


The corruption probe led by Spain’s famous judge Baltazar Garzón involving businessmen with ties to the Partido Popular has entered a new phase.

On Wednesday in a legal document Garzón indicated there was the possibility of national politicians being implicated. To date only local PP politicians have been fingered by the judge.

Garzón, for now, is not naming any names but that has not stopped media speculation. Politicians who have appeared in print in El País and other newspapers include the PP’s treasurer Luis Barcena and European Parliament MP Gerardo Galeote. Earlier the judge formally denied that a senior PP politician from Valencia was under suspicion as reported by El País but gave no such solace to Barcena.

The PP is of course fighting back. It has filed a complaint Garzón alleging “corrupt practices.” Garzón himself has asked prosecutors if he should be removed from the case as he is sits in the National Audience, Spain's highest criminal court that is technically not competent to investigate Spanish politicians and lawmakers.

The investigation has also embroiled the ruling PSOE government. The PP criticised the former justice minister, Mariano Fernández Bermejo, for going on a hunting trip with Garzón – the politician resigned his post on Monday.

One of the first arrests several weeks ago was of Francisco Correa at his home in Sotogrande in San Roque. The entrepreneur organised PP events and it is alleged he is behind dodgy building permits and other lucrative contracts awarded by PP municipal councils in Madrid, Valencia and elsewhere.

All of this will take British and indeed US readers by surprise because the tradition in those countries is for the judiciary and the political worlds to keep themselves at arms length. Indeed, the judges and law makers are more often than not at each others throats rather than sharing lunch on shooting parties. The White House has often been at odds with the Supreme Court, even though the President chooses its judges, and the High Court in London has often rattled the cage of the Prime Minister and his cohorts.

The problem in Spain is that although everybody accepts politicians are corrupt the judges are in danger of now being viewed as political rather than judicial – or perhaps they always were.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


“Increíble pero cierto. Los carnavales de Cádiz, en otros tiempos cuna de la libre creatividad crítica y de la indomable rebeldía popular ante el poder establecido, no han producido ni una sola letra crítica en su versión de 2009. En la España actual, con 4 millones de parados y con una clase política que escandaliza a la ciudadanía a diario con sus despilfarros, abusos, corrupciones y desatinos, hay materia y razones más que suficientes para que la crítica carnavalesca, en una tierra antes libre, como Cádiz, hubiera sido feroz, pero los carnavales gaditanos han sido castrados por el eficaz y omnipresente poder político andaluz.”

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am an avid follower of the ‘Voto en Blanco’ website of respected journalist Francisco Rubiales. As you will see above this week he questioned whether the performers at the Cádiz Carnaval had been gagged.

Well there is no British comparison for the Spanish form of Carnaval of which the Cádiz Carnaval is unique. We do have a reputation for irreverent satire often aimed at our political masters. The carnaval acts I have seen over the years have been risqué, political, barbed and hilarious, often tilting at the windmills of every day life.

I must admit I haven’t seen any of this years acts but Francisco quite rightly reckons that with four million jobless, corruption rife plus numerous fiascos in public life then the ‘comprasas’ and ‘chirigotas’ who perform on stage at Cádiz’s Falla theatre had a rich vein of material to draw on.

He believes they dodged the challenge. Why he asks – was it because it was transmitted by Canal Sur, which is controlled by the PSOE run Andalucía government or because those who hand out the grants have their own agenda?

I don’t know! Yet what is certain is that in a free society, be it in Spain or Britain, we need to defend our right to speak out and ridicule our masters when they deserve it – and nobody can deny that right now they do truly deserve it.

In 2012 Cádiz celebrates the 200 th anniversary of ‘La Pepa’, the constitution that is considered in the Spanish speaking world as the ‘Magna Carta’ of nations. ‘La Pepa’ was drawn up and signed by the Cortes Parliament that was then sitting in the city of Cádiz before being suppressed by Napoleon. It would be cruelly ironic if in the year of its commemoration by leaders of Hispano-American nations that the Cádiz Carnaval was by then so neutered that it had become a meaningless parody of itself.

Behind ‘La Pepa’ was the cry of freedom and the regeneration of democracy. Both freedom and democracy are now under threat and we rely on such celebrations as the Cádiz Carnaval to remind ourselves and the wider world we are both free and democratic!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Yesterday, February 23, is engraved for ever in the Spanish mind as 23F. It is the name given to the failed coup d’état that started on 23 February 1981 and ended the next day on 24 February 1981.

It is also known as El Tejerazo from the name of its most visible figure, Guardia Civil Antonio Tejero, who conducted the most notable event of the coup by storming into the Congress of Deputies with a group of 200 of his fellow armed officers during the election of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as the new Prime Minister.

It was also the time when Spain’s King, Juan Carlos I, cemented his place in the nation’s hearts by giving a nationally televised address denouncing the coup and urging the upholding of the law and the democratically elected government.

As a result of the monarch’s decisive intervention against the uprising the coup soon collapsed. After holding the Parliament and cabinet hostage for 18 hours the hostage-takers surrendered the next morning and nobody had been harmed physically at least.

This year is the 28 th anniversary of the coup attempt. A number of television channels have chosen this anniversary to broadcast dramatisations of the events of 23F.

A sobering fact is that today as in 1981 Spain is in a state of crisis. Then there was 20 per cent unemployment plus 16 per cent inflation. It is a sign of Spain’s democratic maturity that those problems are now tackled by its politicians at home and in international forums rather than through the waving of guns.

But, yes there’s always one of my buts, what if the people of Spain finally become fed up with their corrupt politicians? What if they despair of being shunted from one corrupt administration to the next at national, regional and local level? What if the politicians do not clean up their mutual act? Then the successors of Tejero may again take up arms. Then Juan Carlos or a future King Felipe might not have the will or the ability to talk down a coup. Then the democracy, which so many Spaniards fought so hard to win, might be smashed by another Tejero – the tile maker. What then?

Monday, February 23, 2009


On Saturday Ecologistas en Acción – Verdemar took its campaign to save the Pinar del Rey to San Roque town hall’s door – literally. Around 30 members of the environmental organisation in Cádiz posted stickers demanding ‘Pinar Si – Autovia No’ on the imposing wooden door.

Verdemar says it intends to fight on against the proposed road scheme that would endanger the 200 year old woodland, which is a vital green lung for the Campo de Gibraltar region and is home to important water aquifers. The ecologists stress that the road is not needed by the residents. It vows to take every legal action possible to stop the spending of public funds on a project aimed solely to meet the needs of heavy industry.

The environmentalists are convinced that socialist senator José Carracao and San Roque town hall are carrying out a campaign to stifle public protest ahead of a decision being made in Madrid to go-ahead with the road project. They also fear that in its wake land that is now protected will be opened up for development and the valuable environment of the Pinar del Rey will be destroyed.

Whilst Verdemar has vowed to demonstrate and take legal action to stop the road it has also called on all the political parties in the Campo de Gibraltar to state publically their policy on the road scheme.

Indeed this is not just an issue for environmentalists. The Pinar del Rey is vital for all of us who live in the Campo de Gibraltar. It is the weekend leisure ground for thousands of families in the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar itself. Verdemar speaks for us all – but do our elected representatives?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


The socialist senator who speaks for PSOE on foreign affairs, José Carracao, has stated that the visit by the Princess Royal to Gibraltar in March is “inopportune” as it “injures the sensitivities of Spanish public opinion and that of the Campo in particular.”

“We have nothing against the Royal Family or the Princess of course. What is provocative is that Princess Anne should come over to open a medical centre with her own name built on the isthmus. And this on a territory that is subject to dispute.”

I somewhat doubt whether the visit does injure the sensitivities of the Spanish people – I think they are more concerned with whether they’ll keep their job, how they’ll find a new one, or how to put food on their tables and pay the bills in the economic crisis. However a Royal visit to the Rock is a good diversion in troubled times.

The former mayor of Jimena and president of the Campo de Gibraltar town halls went on to say: “If it is high profile it could, I think, prejudice the talks” being the Tripartite Forum between Britain, Gibraltar and Spain. “If the visit sees the princess swamped by the multitudes I would not be surprised if it derails the talks.”

There is a lot of nonsense talked by Spanish politicians on this issue. Gibraltar has been British for over three hundred years and the people of the Rock have the every right to be visited by a member of their Royal family. In the very same way that the Spanish populations in the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have the right to be visited by their King and Queen. Indeed on those occasions Spanish politicians care little for the “sensitivities” of the Moroccan people and nation who claim the enclaves as their own.

As a Briton living in Spain I am totally indifferent as to whether Gibraltar remains British, becomes Spanish, has joint sovereignty or total independence. What I have always maintained is that the right to self determine their future lies with the people of Gibraltar alone –and the Rock is not for Britain to give away or for Spain to take.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I was interested to read on the Panorama news website that President Obama and the US Government have Gibraltar in their sights as a potential location for money laundering because it is a tax haven.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has already signalled that he is seeking international support to crack down on tax havens. This issue is due to be discussed at the G20 meeting to be held in London in April.

Panorama reports: “Gibraltar is listed in the US list of ‘secrecy jurisdictions’ and in the OECD list of tax havens, so we are bound to be in the spotlight.

“In the OECD list Gibraltar does not escape too badly, although the State Department gives us a ‘secondary’ rating when it comes to money laundering vulnerability.

“The US has legislation which President Obama wants to push through Congress. Gibraltar is on the list.”

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development removed Gibraltar from its list of ‘uncooperative’ tax havens in 2002 after it promised greater openness in tax practices.

Gibraltar denies it is a tax haven, saying it complies with EU rules on regulation, transparency and exchange of information and that it will end its tax-free regime this year by introducing a 10 percent corporate tax rate. However, to date, that doesn’t seem to have impressed the US.

In a speech on Thursday to the Royal Commonwealth Society in London Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, said he welcomed Gordon Brown’s call for a global raising of regulatory standards for financial services and looked forward to participating in it.

However Caruana added: “But let us not use it as a means of getting people to believe that tax havens and offshore financial services centres are the cause of the global financial services crisis.

“Everybody knows where the cause is and it’s not in Jersey, it’s not in Guernsey, it’s not in the Isle of Man, it’s not in Switzerland, it’s not in Gibraltar.”

Indeed one wonders if the world’s political leaders are intent on putting the spotlight on the ‘tax havens’ in an effort to deflect attention from their own gross mismanagement of their economies, especially in the USA and Britain.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


For reasons I won’t bore you with I have only just received an email sent last October by Patrick Elvin. It reads:

“Patrick Elvin is leading a charity walk from Estepona to Santiago de Compostella next March and April 2009, (1200 Kilometres in 7 weeks) and is looking for volunteers who would like to accompany him on all or part of the way which is mostly on the lesser known but very beautiful pilgrimage route of the Via de la Plata.”

In fact the walk starts on March 15, ends on May 2 and Patrick tells me there are still a few places left.

I have to admit one of my ambitions (and I don’t have that many) is to walk to Santiago de Compostella. This walk is also close to my heart because it is for Estepona’s fine animal protection society and refuge, Adana.

Adana has three prime objectives for the walk: to raise awareness of animal cruelty; to encourage care and compassion towards animals; to raise funds for community based care and educational programmes and build a new sanctuary.

As befits a lengthy walk in aid of Adana - man and woman’s best friend, the Adana dogs – which accompany them on the way but obviously only for short sections.

Needs to say there is much more information on the website so click on the link below. If you can’t do the walk then you can help the project by making a valuable donation. It’s a fantastic project and deserves your support.

You can contact Patrick at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Survival International has urged Spain’s Oscar hopeful, Penélope Cruz, not to wear Graff Diamonds when she attends the star-studded awards event.

The NGO claims that the celebrated jeweller is part of a new diamond mine which is being constructed inside the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve and could jeopardize the return of Basarwa Bushmen to their ancestral land.

Graff Diamonds recently bought a 10 percent stake in Gem Diamonds, the company which Survival International claims will construct the new mine inside the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve.

Around 3,000, Basarwa were evicted from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve in 2002 and resettled elsewhere. Then in late 2006, the High Court in Lobatse ruled the eviction was illegal, paving the way for their return - although many have yet to do so.

Survival International says that plans for a diamond mine in the reserve will create a new obstacle for Basarwa’s return to their homeland.There is no suggestion that Graff, or Gem Diamonds, has forced the Basarwa off their land, but Survival International believe Graff’s share holding means it has a “moral imperative” to consider the fate of the bushmen and presumably bush women too.

I have to admit to knowing the owner of Graff Diamonds, Laurence Graff, very well. Not that I’ve ever met the celebrated jeweller and art collector. Rather CNBC has shown a documentary on him four times in the last nine days, and I happened to tune in each time. I think we are now family!

As for Penélope, or Pe as she is known in Spain, I suspect her eyes will be on the gold coated Oscar rather than diamonds on awards night.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


“Antonio, Raquel, Javier, Felipe y compañeros, pedimos a Janet y los compañeros de Gibraltar hacer una protesta enérgica al Ministerio de Defensa del RU y lo mismo a Francia, así como a Bruselas por las consecuencias desastrosas que hubiese tenido la colisión de éstos dos submarinos.”

I received the above email from JJ Uceda this morning which of course concerns the collision of the British and French nuclear submarines in the Atlantic.

The two nuclear-armed submarines collided while on separate patrols in the Atlantic Ocean but the British Admiralty insisted there were no injuries or radioactive leaks.

Analysts have stated that a major disaster could have resulted had the underwater collision ruptured the hulls, set off conventional ammunition or started a fire, although the chances of a full nuclear explosion were apparently - virtually nil - but not it would seem – totally nil.

Coming closer to home British and US nuclear submarines are not infrequent visitors to Gibraltar. Given the chaotic state of shipping in the bay zone with numerous collisions and groundings in the past year one has to ask how safe these visits are. After all if two state-of-the-art nuclear subs can collide in the comparative wide open spaces of the Atlantic the chances of a submarine’s hull being ruptured by an errant tanker, ferry or cargo ship must be much greater.

Of course the merchant vessel could be the totally innocent victim. Apart from the floating disaster HMS Tireless (see above at Gibraltar in 2004) it was only last May that the Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Superb, on a training mission in the Red Sea was damaged when it hit a submerged rock.

If there was a major incident involving a nuclear submarine in the bay the consequences could be horrific. Apart from the tragedy on the vessels involved the bay is lined with major industries with large populations in both Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar.

Now, when my boat comes in, has a totally new meaning!

Monday, February 16, 2009


I like this! It’s an age old story – robbing from the rich to pay the poor. In this instance a builder in Cataluña brought to his knees by the recession decided to raise the money he needed by robbing banks armed with a gun and a knife.

For his role model Ausencio Calleja learnt from ‘El Solitario’ the lone raider who robbed numerous banks in Spain. ‘El Solitario’ turned from being famous to notorious after he gunned down several Guardia Civil officers but the builder just wanted the money.

He managed to rob five banks between September 5 and January 23 before the Mossos d’Esquadra cornered him on Friday as he tried to strike at an isolated branch in the province of Tarragona. By that time it is estimated that he’d walked off with around 80,000 euros all of which he handed over to his creditors.

According to the police the builder – robber is a 52-year-old married man with school-aged children from the northern town of Lleida and his company specialised in home restorations. As the economic crisis bit hard, his clients defaulted on payments, and banks would not give him new loans.

Police inspector Roberic Moreno stated: “He had an ordinary life, with a stable family. He was in good shape but they stopped paying him and his debts mounted. Without a doubt, he led a double life and probably not even his family knew about his criminal activities.”

I certainly do not hold with robbing banks. And yet, given that the banks are now shored up with our money – without even a by-your-leave – I can’t help smile this Monday morning at the actions of Ausencio Calleja who as the banks would not lend him money simply took it to pay his creditors.

Robin Hood would have been proud!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


As a rule I do not blog on Sundays. I believe that like God you deserve a rest on the seventh day. Come to that so do I.

However rules are made to be broken and today I bring you important news.

It would appear that a man with super powers has appeared – and in Madrid come to that.

No I am not talking of our esteemed premier ‘Z’ or Papa and the Partido Popular Smurfs.

I refer to Johan Lorbeer who, as his name suggests, is actually German.

Sorry, excuse me – pardon – no HE wasn’t German HE was Austrian.

Now where was I, ah yes, Johan Lorbeer is an artist and fine arts professor at the University of Berlin. In various places in the Spanish capital he has been defying gravity before people’s eyes in the street. To see what I mean click on the video above which I believe was filmed at Atocha. His work is called Tarzan Standing.

I know our hope for the future is meant to be Barack Obama – but to date his has only brought us rhetoric. Johan Lorbeer has brought us a miracle.

Make no mistake if anybody can save us it is Spiderman!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


When I was young, yes that long ago, I went to a boarding school between Liverpool and Southport. Each term a school “patron” would appear for afternoon tea and with him came boxes of delicious cakes. As our usual fare was bread and jam you can imagine how these visits were welcomed. In due course I learnt that the cakes, over a 100 of them, were bought from Marks and Sparks cheap because they were nearing the end of their shelf life. Given we were used to a diet of “splosh” and “dead baby” slightly dated cakes were no problem at all.

Now this week those memories came flooding back when I saw a newspaper photograph that showed the true depth of the economic crisis we are in. It was a group of men and women sifting through the rubbish bins outside Mercadona supermarket in La Línea de la Concepción looking for products that had been thrown away because they were out of date.

Now every supermarket in Spain, western Europe and beyond at the end of the working day throws out product that is perfectly safe to eat but has passed its precautionary sell by date. However if these foodstuffs have to be dumped then please don’t let them be fed to the rats and seagulls or recycled but given to those in our society who now more than ever cannot make ends meet.

These are the true victims of our economic crisis not the financiers who caused it through their greed and incompetence who are rewarded for their failure with tax payer bailouts and golden handshakes. A bit of neck wringing would not go amiss here but our politicians won’t say boo to those geese!

There are organizations such as Caritas and municipal departments in every city, town and village in Spain that are geared up to meet the needs of those who are starving in our society. It would be a relatively simply matter for at the end of each day the food that can no longer be sold to be collected for these poor souls.

This economic crisis is going to get worse before it gets better. It would be a brave man or woman who looks down their noses at these desperately hungry folk – for believe me there but for the grace of God go you and I – and we may well go there yet before this catastrophe is over.

Let them eat these cakes - please!

Friday, February 13, 2009


“APAGON GENERAL DIA 15 DE FEBRERO - el DIA 15 DE FEBRERO DIA DEL CONSUMIDOR, apagón general de electricidad en los hogares españoles a las 22 horas en señal de protesta por la subida abusiva que ENDESA ha llevado a cabo en sus tarifas eléctricas.

La única forma que tenemos de luchar los consumidores contra estas practicas abusivas, es con medidas como esta por eso os convocamos a seguir esta iniciativa que comenzara a las 22 horas y durara 5 minutos.


The above email has just reached me and calls on all Endesa users to show their anger over the new rates and billing system by turning off their electricity at 22.00 on Sunday for 5 minutes. If they do then obviously the power giants output will slump for that period.

My colleague Prospero at JimenaPulse has blogged on this extensively especially after being landed with a 200 euros bill. Mind you given his caffeine intake I am surprise he needs Endesa to power him. Our mutual friend Alexander Berwick has been silent on the issue but then maybe Endesa has cut him off.

Whilst outrage has been expressed by the Andalucía government, Facua-A consumer organisation, major businesses and we, the humble users, I suspect the problem is more widespread in Spain. I recently saw a small bar owner on TVE1 Gente in tears after Iberdrola landed him with a bill for 7,000 euros.

Now whilst everybody is taking issue with Endesa over its billing and charges in my own pueblo we live with a third world power supply which is potentially lethal. Both the JimenaPulse and TioJimeno blogs recently carried a photo of the fire brigade being called out because a street cable had caught fire. The power lines run along the outside of properties, over open spaces and abandoned properties and it doesn’t take an active imagination to anticipate what might or will happen.

Sadly active in this regard isn’t in the vocabulary of our town hall who merely sit on their hands. If all the residents, businesses and municipal offices went on strike and refused to pay their electricity bill – then something might finally be done by Endesa. True the power hungry company might cut the supply – but to an entire municipality – oh please, do it – can you imagine the national outrage?

So come Sunday at 22.00 I hope you will turn your power off for five minutes. Yes even if you are watching a live soccer match or latest movie! Off can go your lights and other appliances leaving you undisturbed but registering your anger with Endesa.

You may rightly ask will I be supporting the protest too? Yes I will, but I should add that at 22.00 on a Sunday I have long since sipped my Ovaltine and am safely tucked up in bed. Hence both myself and my Endesa meter will be in the land of nod.

(To read Prospero’s excellent blog on understanding your Endesa bill click on this link -

Thursday, February 12, 2009


In my blog of yesterday I touched on the pledge made by the veteran leader of the GSLP and former chief minister of Gibraltar, Joe Bossano, that he would stand down before the next election.

If he is true to his word, and God forbid that a politician shouldn’t be, then the big game on the Rock at the moment is guessing who his successor would be.

According to an opinion poll carried out by the Gibraltar Chronicle 61 per cent of those questioned believed the new leader of the GSLP should be Fabian Picardo. He scores massively over Gilbert Licudi (18 per cent) and the leader of the Liberal Party and coalition partner Dr Joseph Garcia on 12 per cent.

Certainly Picardo has been Joe Boss’s bag carrier on his international trips such as to the UN in New York. He also has achieved a high profile in Parliament and seems to rattle chief minister Peter Caruana’s cage as effectively as his leader.

Although Picardo (a lawyer by the way) works actively alongside Dr Joseph Garcia there is bound to be some tension as Fabian was once one of his Liberal soldiers before he switched ranks to the GSLP. As far as I am aware Joe Boss has yet to anoint a successor but indeed Picardo must be the favourite.

Whoever wins the GSLP crown they would appear to have a battle on their hands. Although the 2007 General Election was tight with GBC in its exit poll predicting a GSLP win Peter Caruana and his GSD just scrapped home. Should a poll be held now then the Chronicle says the ruling GSD would win 62 per cent of the vote with the GSLP/Liberal Alliance on 34 per cent and the PDP at 4 per cent.

Another question is, of course, will Caruana lead the GSD to the polls – but that we will save for another day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The Spanish senator and former mayor of Jimena, José Carracao, believes Spanish Government officials should not only be talking to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, but also the leader of the Opposition, Joe Bossano.

He is quoted as saying: “Bossano is a real alternative to the present Government. He has 49 per cent of the vote and lost the election only by a few hundred votes.”

Whilst that is true, the veteran GSLP leader and former chief minister, Joe Bossano had made it clear that he would not lead the party in to the next election. Hence Carracao would also need to talk to the GSLP/Liberal coalition’s bright young stars such as Fabian Picardo and Dr Joseph Garcia.

What is not clear is whether this statement was merely a tactic to goad the chief minister but he says that Peter Caruana has acquired an air of excessive political self-importance - “If it were for him, he would only meet the Minister.” Curious because I know a leading television correspondent was trying to arrange an interview with the Rock’s top honcho without much success.

Carracao restated his support for the Cordoba agreement and believes it has had a positive effect on public opinion on both sides of the frontier. However he is concerned that contacts have been reduced to official exchanges. “Whenever a meeting of the Tripartite Forum is called, the general directors of Britain and Spain and Caruana meet. But that’s it. There are no meetings with institutions such as the Mancomunidad, or with the Campo mayors.”

Perhaps the wily old Carracao is just demonstrating his political nous because there is nothing more likely to stir Caruana from his lofty eyrie than the thought that his political bête noir, Joe Bossano, could be projected on to the centre stage, any stage, and especially one involving relations with Spain.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The 1990s were the years of the GIL era on the Costa del Sol. Marbella’s maverick mayor, the late Jesús Gil y Gil, made the streets of the jet set resort safe to walk whilst the criminals were emptying the town hall’s coffers.

Gil and GIL eventually brought Marbella to its knees. His cohorts elsewhere on the coast carried out similar hatchet jobs on towns such as Estepona, where the son of Jesús ruled.

Up the hill in Gaucín they did not need Jesús Gil as they had Francisco Corbacho. The local doctor turned mayor won election in 1999 as an independent but was supported by first PSOE and then the Partido Andalucista.

After the last local elections PSOE and the Partido Popular formed a coalition to keep Corbacho out. This unlikely alliance soon unravelled and last September Francisco Ruíz split ranks with the PP, was installed as mayor backed by the Partido Andalucista, with – surprise, surprise – Corbacho as his deputy and the power behind his throne.

Eventually the wheels of justice have caught up with Corbacho. He escaped a jail term but was barred from office for misappropriating town hall funds and obstructing justice. He was able to continue as a councillor (and deputy mayor) whilst his case went to appeal. The higher court upheld the original decision and last week he finally resigned.

Now it emerges that the Málaga prosecutor is seeking an 18 month jail term and a ten year bar from holding office for Corbacho. Also implicated in the case is the municipal architect Francisco Arenas who faces the same penalties along with councillors, past and present, three from the current PA ruling group.

The case revolves around the issuing of ten licences by the mayor and the architect to build on land that is zoned as non-urban. The architect is involved because it is alleged that he approved of the issuing of the licences even though they infringed the planning law.

The news broke days after the socialist opposition at Gaucín town hall denounced the Partido Popular mayor, Francisco Ruíz, for allowing two large mansions to be built on rustic land both owned by PA councillors. One is a house of 400 square metres that is being constructed for a family member of - Francisco Corbacho.

Slowly but surely justice is catching up with Corbacho. A resident of Gaucín told me that when he made alterations to his home he had to make a payment to the mayor – I am sure it was for a legal licence! I also remember his father in despair when he had to mortgage his farm home to raise the money to back pay Corbacho’s municipal debt.

I have raised this matter before because when living in the neighbouring municipality I supported the Partido Andalucista as it stood up against the local socialist ‘mismanagement’. Now I would vote for Izquierda Unida as both PSOE and the PA locally are tainted with corruption. Here lies the problem. I accept politicians are human but when all parties seemingly act illegally eventually you loose faith in democracy. When that time comes, then the options are very dangerous indeed.

(To whom it may concern – Gil is pronounced Hill in English)

Monday, February 9, 2009


Twenty five per cent of the Spanish population will contract cancer in their lifetime. This startling statistic was given in a report produced by the Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica (SEOM). The disease will hit one in three men and one in four women.

Currently the report says that 1.5 million Spaniards have cancer or have had it. Last year doctors detected 219,000 cases, almost 20,000 more than two years previous.

The president of SEOM, Ramón Colomer, stated: “Each time there are more cases of cancer in Spain, but each time the detection is made earlier and the number of people who survive has increased.”

The survival rate for men in the 1990s was 44 per cent but that has now increased to 49.50 per cent. Women have a higher survival rate jumping from 56.4 to 59 per cent.

In 2006 a total of 98,046 people died of cancer with colon and lung cancer accounting for the most deaths. Emilio Alba, who is the vice president of SEOM and a leading cancer specialist based at Málaga’s university hospital, says that 60 per cent of all tumours can be avoided. “If people do not smoke they can avoid one in three tumours and if they are overweight they increase the risk by 20 per cent.

Of the over 200,000 new cases of cancer detected each year – “the four horsemen of the Apocalypse” says Alba are colon cancer with over 24,000 new cases followed by breast cancer (21,300), lung cancer (21,100) and prostate (over 19,700).

Men account for the largest number of new cases with 57 per cent. These run in the order of prostate, then lung cancer, bladder and colon. Alba added that for women the majority of cancer cases were related to the breasts hence the importance of diagnostic mammograms. There are also a large numbers of tumours related to gynaecological regions such as the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes and cervix.

Of course these statistics are for Spain as a whole. Those of us who live in the Campo de Gibraltar, wider Cádiz along with the provinces of Sevilla and Huelva know

Saturday, February 7, 2009


As I wrote this week’s news I came across two items on the 200-year-old Pinar del Rey in San Roque. On one hand the government in Madrid wants to drive a motorway through the 338 hectare protected green zone and then the regional government in Sevilla intends to include it as a Puerta Verde for the enjoyment of local people. Sadly the two ideas do not sit happily together.

For its part the environmental group Verdemar says its protests will continue over the plans to build a new stretch of the A-7 through the heavily wooded zone of the Pinar del Rey, an ecological gem with valuable water aquifers.

The main purpose of the road is to improve access to the port in Algeciras and the bay zone. Whilst Verdemar recognizes that the port is of major economic importance to the region it argues it cannot be seen in isolation. Its existence has to be balanced with the wider needs of the Campo de Gibraltar and its residents and these are not best served by the destruction of the environment.

If the road goes ahead then the noise from the traffic will be heard throughout the higher parts of the Pinar woodland. In addition fumes from the vehicles will damage the environment and trees in that zone. Furthermore the pillars needed to support the road will cause irreversible harm to the aquifer of the Fuente de la Alhaja.

Hence Verdemar is calling for the project to be dropped and says it will mount protests till that objective is achieved. I for one will support them in this action and I know many other residents both in the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar itself feel the same way. I suspect the officials at San Roque’s tourist office must be tearing their hair out as this most beautiful and unspoilt part of the municipality faces destruction.

So it is ironic that at the same time as the Pinar faces the threat of the new A-7 the regional government’s Cádiz environment delegation is proposing it should be included in a new green corridor, the Puerta Verde of San Roque.

It would cover an area of 10.7 kilometres running from the Puerta Verde of La Línea, the Molino de Fuego to the Pinar del Rey. The idea is it should be a leisure zone for local people at weekends and during the holiday periods.

The project comes in two phases and the delegation wants the nearly 700,000 euros scheme to be operational in 2010 and would include a footbridge over the present A-7.

The objective of this praise worthy scheme is to create a car free zone, where the environment and scenic beauty is preserved and that would act as a break on urban development. Indeed the very things that the A-7 motorway through the Pinar del Rey would destroy because it is also feared that in its wake would come construction projects as the protected wood is opened up.

It is important that the people of the Campo de Gibraltar stand up to protect the Pinar del Rey. In an area where black lungs and cancer deaths are all too frequent thanks to the heavy industry it is vital that this green lung is preserved. If the Pinar dies – then so too does a part of us, literally!

Friday, February 6, 2009


The freeze continues in Britain and again the country has ground to a standstill.

When the snow first hit London it became a news item on Fox News in the USA. Bemused presenters scratched their heads in wonder as four inches fell in the British capital bringing it to a standstill. “They obviously aren’t used to snow,” was one comment.

Now predictably as the snow and ice continues for more that a day or so the authorities have run out of salt and grit for the roads. No problem Spain, which sees more of the white stuff in a year than Britain does in two decades, was on hand to send some supplies.

Cleveland Potash, the UK Highways Agency’s second supplier, said it had arranged for 40,000 tonnes of salt to be imported from its sister mine in Spain to meet the increased demand. Hertfordshire County Council, one of the councils which said stocks were running low, said it was seeking additional supplies from abroad.

Those of us who grew up in Britain in the 1950s are made of sterner stuff. I remember walking to school in the smog when buses crawled along and flares marked crossings and junctions. I also slogged through the snow and huddled with the rest of my class around the radiator as we and our damp clothes steamed and the ice on our shoes melted.

Few of us, pupils or teachers, had cars or central heating in those post-war years – yet somehow life went on despite the harsh weather. My father had to commute by train from South London in to the city and I never remember him having a day off because of the weather. It is not only the Fox News presenters who are bemused – because any Briton over the age of 50 will be wondering what has happened to our nation that it could be floored by a snow flake or two.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Today I beg a question – is the old saying true - do only the good die young?

I ask it because whether you watch the Spanish, British or US news all too frequently a young member of the military is lost in action or a school child is slain.

In every case that I have heard reported the soldier, sailor or air force member was an exemplary service person. Every child was a popular, outstanding student with a bright future ahead.

Now I know it is said – never speak ill of the dead – but what about the truth?

Is never the barrack room lawyer, the social misfit, the stroppy lad or lassie killed in battle?

Does the class dunce or the school bully never meet a tragic untimely end?

It doesn’t stop them being a hero or their death being widely mourned – I just can’t believe it’s only the very good who die so very young.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Spain’s car industry is in trouble which puts it on a par with the rest of the industrialised world.
In January the number of car sales plummeted by 41.6 per cent compared with the same month last year, the second worst fall in history. A total of 59,385 vehicles of various styles were sold. Surprisingly the worst year wasn’t that long ago, it was back in 1996 when just over 53,000 cars were moved.

The car manufacturers and traders say that unless the government steps in with an aid package the industry is in for a very bad period. Well Germany and Britain have recently done it - now it appears that the Spanish government is indeed studying plans to help its struggling car manufacturers, including postponing social security payments for up to five years.

The news was reported in Cinco Dias last Friday although a spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry would not comment on the contents of the report. However he did admit the ministry was studying measures to support the car manufacturers.

These could also include increased unemployment benefits for workers affected by factory closures or redundancies but no mention has been made of copying the German tactic of offering the owners of old vehicles a cash incentive to purchase new ones.

This tactic was excluded from the British package. Commentators in the media stated that the UK based car industry was largely an export operation. Hence if you made it easier for people to buy cars they would be imported from elsewhere in Europe and the manufacturing sector in Britain would not benefit.

Maybe they are right – but the fact is that unless you have ready cash and lots of it – you can’t buy a new car. In Spain the second hand market has been holding up as those wishing or needing to change their car have traded down. Not surprisingly it’s the banks that are key to this problem because until car loans are again widely available there will be a large financial spanner in the motor industry’s works.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


The website Travel + Leisure has come up with a list of the world’s ten scariest runways and Gibraltar believe it or not lands at number four.

Few people actually enjoy flying and the majority fear the act of landing or taking off the most. As long as the pilot is not closing his eyes I am happy to leave it to him or her to get us down or up safely – especially as we can’t see what’s going on anyway.

Bhutan in the Himalayas comes in at number one. However there are some other surprise inclusions as well. For instance Reagan National Airport in Washington is in third place with JFK in New York at eighth.

Of Gibraltar’s airport the report says: “Pinched in by the Mediterranean on its eastern flank and the Bay of Algeciras on its western side, the airport’s truncated runway stretches just 6,000 feet and requires pinpoint precision. And upon hitting the tarmac, pilots must quickly and fully engage the auto-brakes. Yet as nerve-wracking as the landing can be, it’s never guaranteed. Because of Gibraltar’s unique topography, the British colony endures unusual localized weather patterns that cause flights to be diverted to nearby Tangiers, Faro, and Malaga.”

I have to admit my scariest landing was probably at Gibraltar when after bumping along the Med in appalling weather on approach the pilot aborted the landing, did a circuit of the Rock, before having another successful try.

You can experience these runways at - I’d recommend a large gin and tonic as you do so!

Monday, February 2, 2009


It rained on the major demonstration called by the Izquierda Unida in Sevilla on Sunday but the deluge didn’t dampen the spirits.

Thousands took to the streets of the Andalucía capital in the march against unemployment. Whilst the demonstration was staged by the far left Izquierda Unida it went ahead without the support of the unions.

Party members were bussed in from all over Andalucía braving appalling conditions to make their way to Sevilla. The marchers rallied behind a banner proclaiming: "Frente a la crisis. En defensa del empleo".

The march was led by the IU’s co-ordinator general, Cayo Lara, the IU leader in Andalucía Diego Valderas, the mayor of Córdoba Rosa Aquilar along with other mayors, councillors and party supporters from the region with many from Cádiz. There were also banners held high by the former workers of companies that have closed in the economic crisis including Delphi in the Bahía de Cádiz.

The skies opened with a heavy deluge of rain as the march left the plaza de San Francisco. Fortunately they weren’t going far but then the sound system wouldn’t operate so Lara and Valderas spoke to the crowds through megaphones. I suspect such adversities add to the sense of occasion on such rallies.

Lara explained that the IU had only called the demonstration in Andalucía because the region was suffering most from unemployment. However he added that Sunday’s protest was just the preamble to a nationwide demonstration. He added that if the unions wished they could call a general strike – but that decision was for them to make.

For the event hundreds of coaches came to Sevilla from all over Andalucía although some were prevented from travelling by the weather. At first the IU said 8,000 were present but that was upgraded to15,000. As is the case with all such demonstrations the police have a different figure estimating between 4,000 and 5,000.