Saturday, November 28, 2009


A few days ago Mary – a regular reader of this blog – sent me an email with a video and these comments:

“It is unbearable to watch and who in their right mind would actually desire to see such suffering inflicted by men for women’s vanity? What an education.”

So what’s it all about? It’s part of PETA’s campaign against the use of fur in fashion. I warn you it’s pretty horrific stuff but if you want to combat this unspeakable and unwatchable cruelty then you have to make a stand!

PETA explains the process below:

Undercover investigators from Swiss Animal Protection/EAST International toured fur farms in China's Hebei Province, and it quickly became clear why outsiders are banned from visiting. There are no regulations governing fur farms in China—farmers can house and slaughter animals however they see fit. The investigators found horrors beyond their worst imaginings and concluded, “Conditions on Chinese fur farms make a mockery of the most elementary animal welfare standards. In their lives and their unspeakable deaths, these animals have been denied even the simplest acts of kindness.”

On these farms, foxes, minks, rabbits, and other animals pace and shiver in outdoor wire cages, exposed to driving rain, freezing nights, and, at other times, scorching sun. Mother animals, who are driven crazy from rough handling and intense confinement and have nowhere to hide while giving birth, often kill their babies after delivering litters.

With a hidden camera, animals were filmed being skinned alive. The furriers claim it is done to get a more perfect “cut”…afterwards the carcasses are tossed into a pile, many still alive, and for up to 10 minutes you can see their hearts still beating, in agony, their eyes still blinking, and the puppies little paws still shaking in intense shock. There is one dog (barely recognisable as such) that is left still able to lift his skinned fur-less head & gaze at the camera with bloodied eyes.

If you don’t care to see the video you can pledge to go fur free on the link below.

Or you can visit the PETA website to learn more about their various campaigns.

But do something because if we don’t protect animals from this type of brutality, we become accomplices.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It is often said that the future wars will be over water – you might say “and fuel” – but of course we’re fighting over that now. There are no wars in Jimena de la Frontera but there are currently two battles over water which perhaps are a sign of the wider things to come.

The Andalucía regional government and its water agency seem intent on proceeding with the project to build a reservoir on the Gibralmedina to meet the water needs of the western Costa del Sol.

The Gibralmedina stream flows through the zone known as the “arroyo de las gallinas” in Jimena. The rural lane and stream meets the Guadiaro river in Jimena although half the valley zone is in Gaucín.

In January on this blog I broke the news that the water agency was undertaking drillings in the valley. At the time the local residents spoken to voiced their strong opposition to the area being turned in to a giant reservoir as many people would loose both their lands and homes. Indeed many refused to allow the surveyors and drilling equipment on to their land.

Curiously the initial report from the regional government says the residents fully support the project. However local resident Dominic Bolus said: “They have not yet contacted anybody. The whole valley will be up in arms against it and we will fight it.”

The people who do support it is the association speaking for agriculture sector in nearby San Pablo de Buceite who say they’ve been demanding such a reservoir of years. There is no indication they’ll be able to irrigate their land with water destined for the Costa del Sol - and few if any of the association’s members live in the valley.

The reservoir would have a capacity of at least 100 cubic hectometres. This is said to be sufficient water to meet the needs of the western Costa del Sol and the Campo de Gibraltar.

Agaden spokesperson, Quico Rebolledo, has condemned the project as “an authentic barbarity” and it is known that a protest campaign is to be started. The Izquierda Unida co-ordinator general in Jimena, Francisco Gómez, said his party was in contact with Agaden and would back its efforts. He added that talks were being held with the Andalucía IU MP for Cádiz, Ignacio García, to discover just what the regional government is intending.

The IU’s MP for Málaga and the co-ordinator of the party in the province, José Antonio Castro, accused the water agency and regional government of following an “incoherent” policy. He stated that in the Ley de Agua de Andalucía the policy is not to build giant dams of this type. In last week’s parliamentary debate on the law he expressed his party’s opposition to the Gibralmedina project saying the dam would break the natural cycle of the river in a natural zone where it is so important.

To the other side of Jimena and running past the village itself is the Hozgarganta river. The ecologist group Agaden has made an official complaint to the Cádiz environmental prosecutor over the indiscriminate removal of land with vegetation that has been taking place there in recent weeks.

Izquierda Unida in Jimena says the works at Treveris were permitted but the company involved had exceeded the depth permitted by its licence and this has led to the collapse of a natural wall with the threat of flooding when the rains come. They also confirm that the environmental arm of the Guardia Civil – Seprona - and the forest guard have ordered a halt on frequent occasions.

The IU added that there could exist possible administrative irregularities as the company has taken the earth from the river to an earth storage area in Marchenilla where it will be used for commercial gain without any permissions being granted.

The co-ordinator general of the IU in Jimena, Francisco Gómez, has called for the immediate resignation of any officials who have been involved in this operation. The IU says it is ironic that for some months the ministry of the environment has been staging its “Anda Ríos” conservation programme in Jimena promoting the value of the river, fauna and habitat at the same time the town hall has stood by and allowed the destruction of the Hozgarganta.

Jimena de la Frontera is an area of great natural beauty part of which sits in Los Alcornocales national park. The responsible management of the area’s water is vital to maintain the rich flora and fauna – and indeed for ‘us’ to survive.

Of course Jimena is one small zone in Andalucía but this scenario is being played out in municipalities and regions throughout Spain – and across the wider world. Today’s battles will become tomorrow’s wars.

Photos: top - possible site of dam on the Gibralmedina; below - Fran Gómez at earth removal site on Hozgarganta.

The arroyo las Gallinas lane and the Gibralmedina stream that runs through it is to the Manilva - Gaucín side of the Guadiaro river. It can be reached from the San Pablo to Gaucín road - its entry is on the left, beyond the Málaga boundary at a lane with a bus stop, several houses and the Venta Manolo. From Jimena you can cross the bridge at the bar at the junction of the Marchanilla - San Martín - San Pablo roads, then go left at the t-junction and the lane starts between the wood yard and El Dorado farm school. The Gibralmedina joins the Guadiaro about half a kilometre up stream from the bridge on the left. The stream is dry except in heavy rains but the waters now run below the surface hence the drillings to test its flow and the aquifers. During the drought of the 1990s the wells in the valley never ran dry. As far as I am aware there are no plans to dam the Guadiaro and the photo at the top of the page shows the most likely dam wall location.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


One of the subjects I concentrate on is domestic violence which is normally accepted as being aggression on the part of the male on his wife, girlfriend or former partner. Of course in some instances it is the woman who is the aggressor. Cases also occur of a partner alleging violence at as act of vengeance when none has happened.

Domestic violence has become a hot topic in Spain in recent years because the government has taken steps to offer protection and help to the victims so that many cases that in the past would have remained hidden now come out in to the open. It has to be said that the immigrant communities account for many of the deaths and acts of violence – and sadly Britons make up part of that number.

What caught my attention this week was the number of acts of aggression by young sons and daughters on their parents and grandparents. These have doubled in the last two years with the number of reports having risen from around 2,000 to 4,000.

According to data supplied by the minor’s prosecutor, Consuelo Madrigal, 40 per cent of the cases involve the daughters or grand daughters. She says this type of violence is one of the most worrying developments that have occurred since she took office in 2008.

It is believed that the frequency of attacks by children on the parents is probably higher as it is likely that many are not reported or brought before the courts. It was the case that 80 per cent of the attacks were by sons and 80 per cent of the victims were the mothers. However whilst mothers are still the main victims of abuse more attacks are now coming from the daughters.

There is apparently no profile either social or psychological for children who attack their parents. It is true to say that such assaults are more frequent in single parent families or where the father is absent permanently or for much of the time. Convicted children are normally placed in a family education unit where the minor will receive treatment and therapy – the majority of such cases are successfully treated. None-the-less I find this development very worrying especially in a society where respect for senior family members has always been strong.

By coincidence as these statistics were issued a 20-year-old youth was arrested in Sevilla for allegedly having stabbed his father to death in the bar he owned. The attack took place at around 7.30 and it was first thought that the father had died whilst confronting a thief. At 20 the son is over the age of being a minor but it is still a grim reminder of the reality of child on parent violence.

Monday, November 23, 2009


If you read the Daily Telegraph last Friday you would have found a report headlined: “Royal Navy used ‘Spanish flag’ for target practice off Gibraltar.” If you read on you would have found the navy did no such thing. I suspect there is still a “Johnny Foreigner” view at the Telegraph which has no place in the modern world.

If the Royal Navy had shot at the Spanish flag then those involved should have been booted out of the service. Put it another way – had the Guardia Civil used the Union flag for target practice in what they deem as the Bay of Algeciras how would Britons and the residents of Gibraltar felt? Outraged –and quite rightly so.

What happened was the crew of a Guardia Civil launch reported spotting the fast RN patrol boat Scimitar firing at “Spanish colours” during a military exercise in international waters off the Rock.

Britain’s new ambassador to Spain is Giles Paxman, the younger brother of the BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman. He was duly summoned to Spain’s foreign ministry to explain what had transpired. He insisted the flag on top of the buoy used in the target practice was not in fact a Spanish flag but a standard target flag that did use the red and yellow and he apologised for what he called a lack of judgement by the British navy.

In a statement the Spanish foreign ministry said: “The ambassador insisted that, however it may have appeared, it did not represent the flag of Spain.

“He presented his apologies for an error of judgement and the lack of sensibility shown and promised to launch an investigation and to take the necessary measures to ensure that incidents of this kind will not be repeated.”

The Ministry of Defence acknowledged the striking resemblance between the Spanish national flag and the signal marker chosen for the routine exercise that has two red horizontal stripes separated by yellow. The MOD explained: “HMS Scimitar was using Flag No1 during gunnery practice, traditionally chosen due to its high visibility. However we recognise its similarity to the Spanish national flag and will use an alternative marker during gunnery practice in this area in the future.”

The embarrassing incident happened at a sensitive time in Gibraltar’s waters which Spain claims as her own. The EU has given Spain jurisdiction over much of the area for environmental purposes due to a cock-up in Whitehall and Guardia Civil patrol boats often enter the area to test Gibraltar’s and Britain’s resolve.

(I have blogged numerous times on the territorial waters issue – two of my recent blogs appear below if you scroll down the page.)

Friday, November 20, 2009


The concept behind the European Union is very simple. It is the member states linked together first in a community and now in a tighter union.

In some ways it mirrors that great other union across the pond where the states govern themselves but come together under Congress, the Senate and ultimately the President to be the United States of America.

The problem with the European Union of States is that it was and is designed by bureaucrats – hence simple it isn’t.

The Treaty of Lisbon was meant to iron out many of these wrinkles, create openness and democracy – but it failed at the first hurdle. Some countries held a referendum to vote for its approval, others opted to pass it in parliament, in Britain a referendum was promised but the Labour Government fearing it would be rejected reneged and used its large parliamentary majority to force the treaty through.

Yesterday was meant to be a milestone for the European Union. Its leaders –not the voters - selected a president Herman Van Rompuy. You might not recognise his name but he is the prime minister of Belgium, is credited with holding that fractious country together and is probably also known to the people of surrounding nations such as Holland, Luxembourg and France. His main selling point is he isn’t Tony Blair!

Also selected was a new European supremo for foreign affairs. This post goes to a Briton who has two names. In the UK, because we are meant to tug our forelocks, she’s Baroness Ashton. In Europe she’s plain Catherine Ashton, I think at last night’s press conference she was even called Cathy – but she is Lady Catherine to the likes of me.

Now I doubt if many people in the UK have ever heard of Baroness Ashton. She has never been elected to public office but apparently as one of our Commissioners in Europe has made a name for herself handling the trade portfolio. Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, hailed her appointment at his press conference saying this proved the UK was at the heart of Europe and argued that Britons would be delighted and proud she’d attained the position. As I write news of pending street parties in celebration has yet to reach me.

Ok – so Europe now has a president – Herman Van Rompuy. But hang on – there’s another president too. Let us not forget Durao Barroso from Portugal, who has been president of the European Commission and continues in that role. It is also probably fair to say he is wider known in Europe and internationally than Rompuy and certainly more so than the Baroness.

So that’s two then. Well yes and no. Every six months a member state holds the presidency of the European Union. Currently it is Sweden – in January it is my adopted home of Spain. That means that José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero – the president of the Spanish Government but not the country because Spain is a monarchy – will oversee the affairs of the EU. Now if Spain has the presidency surely that means that Zapatero in some form or other is a president too. So that makes three.

It was Henry Kissinger who said – when you want to contact Europe who do you call? It’s quite simple Henry – the president. And if you can’t get one, you can always try the other two.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My mind hasn’t been on blogging this week.

It hasn’t been the lack of events I normally cover – my mind simply has been elsewhere.

To show you how bad things are I even turned down a free meal from Conservatives Abroad in Puerto Banús who this very evening entertain Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana.

Those who know me will vouch for the fact that I do not turn down free meals lightly – especially as I am rarely offered one.

No this was the week of the dentist and although my session was yesterday I have been counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds since Sunday.

Two extractions were on the menu and numerous stitches. The picture from my good friend Prospero tells all you need to know.

Then I read a report from Ohio informing me that the same person who fills my cavities also could be filling my wrinkles—with Botox.

Some US dentists now are offering cosmetic procedures such as Botox but plastic surgeons say you should stick with them.

The Ohio State Dental Board has ruled that treatments, such as Botox, are within the scope of practice for dentists as long as they are limited to the facial areas.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons said Botox falls squarely within the practice of medicine and should only be done by a board-certified plastic surgeon.


However looking at myself in the mirror this morning I am not sure whether my face is a result of dental surgery or Botox – I’d say it could be either.

One thing is for certain though – beauty treatment it wasn’t!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I have written here oft times before about the confrontations in Gibraltar’s waters between the Guardia Civil on one hand and the Royal Gibraltar Police - Royal Navy patrols on the other. Yesterday Gibraltar’s GSLP – Liberal Opposition issued the following statement which highlighted comments made to the Spanish daily “El Mundo” by a Guardia Civil officer. First the key parts of the statement:

“The Opposition is concerned at the fact that, according to the Spanish Guardia Civil, their patrol boats are now challenging British sovereignty and jurisdiction in the territorial waters of Gibraltar practically on a daily basis. It is obvious that despite the professions of friendship and cooperation that we continue to hear so much about, the Spanish Government continues to increase the tension in the waters that surround Gibraltar.

“A Spanish Civil Guard has told the newspaper “El Mundo” that one of these days something very serious is going to happen in the waters around Gibraltar. They have also revealed that incidents between the Civil Guard and the Royal Navy or the Royal Gibraltar Police are now happening “on a daily basis”. The Civil Guard claim that since the summer they have been harassed by British patrol boats within the three-mile limit around the Rock which “they consider to be their area of influence”. The Civil Guard have repeated the well-known position of the Spanish Government that Gibraltar has no waters on the basis that none were explicitly ceded by the Treaty of Utrecht except those inside the Port.

“The Opposition consider that it is the height of hypocrisy for the Civil Guard to claim that they are being the victims of harassment when everyone knows that it is they who have been harassing and intimidating local boat owners in waters which are outside Spain’s jurisdiction. The Civil Guard have in the past stopped, questioned and requested papers from the occupants of Gibraltar registered boats barely a few metres from the Rock and well inside the three-mile limit. In fact, this harassment on their part led the Gibraltar Government at the time to call on boat owners to set off a flare gun or call the Royal Gibraltar Police when they were challenged in this manner.

“It is clear that there is an orchestrated campaign on the part of the Spanish Government and its agencies to undermine the sovereignty of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. This was seen last year when the Spanish proposed a designation of our waters as if they belonged to Spain in an EU directive. The acceptance of this by the EU then had an immediate, practical effect in the waters around the Rock. It was followed by an incursion by a Spanish navy fisheries protection vessel in May this year and by frequent incursions by Civil Guard patrol boats who continue to behave as if our waters belonged to them.”

The report in the centre right “El Mundo” comes from an unattributed Guardia Civil source. Hence it could be fact or fiction destined for home consumption to strengthen the snipping from the Partido Popular who accuse the government on going soft on the Rock.

It also has to be said that neither the Royal Gibraltar Police, Royal Navy, Gibraltar nor British Government have publicly spoken about these daily confrontations in Gibraltar’s waters. This doesn’t mean to say they do not happen – just that there has been no comment from Gibraltarian or British sources. Indeed on the few occasions when Spain has put its toe in to Gibraltar’s internationally recognized waters it has pulled it out promptly and left the scene peacefully when confronted by the RGP or RN patrols.

However if “something serious did happen” it would escalate the dispute into a major incident. If the armed Guardia Civil tangled with the RGP or Royal Navy patrols it would be a confrontation between Spain and Britain. In addition it has to be remembered that the Rock’s port is a NATO facility hence British Royal Navy warships plus those from the USA frequently visit as do nuclear submarines. It would be all too easy for them to be caught up in the pistol fire.

I am a firm supporter of the Córdoba Agreement and I certainly believe that jaw-jaw beats war-war. For its part this Spanish Government has invested much time and effort in seeking to build bridges with the Llanitos. If that bridge collapsed it would leave its policy towards Gibraltar in disarray. None-the-less these discussions can only continue if Spain respects Gibraltar’s institutions and boundaries. If it chooses not to then Britain should call Spain’s bluff and suspend the process until it does. And if it doesn’t…

Friday, November 13, 2009


In my Gibraltar column last week – The Waters Are Troubled Enough – I wrote: "There are two disputes between Spain and Gibraltar – Britain over the Rock’s territorial waters. The historic row is that Spain insists that Gibraltar has no territorial waters other than the harbour whereas Gibraltar – Britain claim under international agreement and law three miles which could be extended to twelve. The more recent friction, which this article relates to, is due to the EU that has given Spain responsibility in environmental matters over much of the waters round the Rock.

"Hence it is understandable that the Gibraltar Government has gone hot under the collar over suggestions by the Opposition that Spain was now in the process of making a third claim. Not so – it insists: "Spain has not designated more British Gibraltar Waters for EU Environmental Protection purposes".

"In a statement to clarify the situation and leaving the historic claim aside the Government says: "The waters affected remain only those proposed by Spain in 2008, and listed by the EU Commission in its existing decision which is the subject of a legal challenge by the Gibraltar Government.""

The Gibraltar Government then went on to specify what action it and the British Government were taking and the importance of the UK bringing its own legal challenge.

Well no sooner had my column gone to press than Graham Watson, the Liberal Democrat MEP who represents the South West of England and Gibraltar in the European Parliament, broke some startling news. If you are one of those who wonder what Euro MPs do for their money then his press statement will go some way to answering that question.

Graham Watson has discovered how UK government bungling has allowed Spain to register Gibraltar’s territorial waters as a Spanish Site of Community Importance under EU environmental legislation.

His statement read: "Gibraltar and the UK were dismayed to discover recently that a Spanish application for an SCI covering the waters around the Rock had been approved by the European Commission. Graham Watson MEP tabled a parliamentary question demanding how this could have happened when the UK had already registered the area around the Rock as a UK SCI. No clear reply was received, other than that the UK had not objected to the Spanish application.

""I assumed this was an oversight on our government’s part", the MEP commented; "inexcusable but not unheard of. On further study I have discovered that in the UK’s application for an SCI, Gibraltar was positioned at longitude 5 degrees 22 minutes East of Greenwich. Yet Gibraltar is situated at 5 degrees 22 minutes West of the prime meridian. In other words the UK’s submission placed it in waters north of Algiers, which means that the Spanish application did not overlap with our SCI.""

Fair enough – mistakes especially with this British government - do happen. However this scenario begs certain questions. When the EC received Britain’s application didn’t somebody in Brussels notice the error and duly advise the Foreign Office? If they did – did the UK Government act to rectify the mistake? If they didn’t - does Britain thus have jurisdiction in environmental matters over waters north of Algiers that aren’t even in the EU? We seem to only have half they story and it appears to be a UK and EC bungle!

By the by Graham Watson’s father served in Gibraltar as a Royal Naval officer and he is a qualified marine navigator himself. He said: "The litany of UK bungling over matters regarding the Rock gets longer and longer. Which bureaucrat in the cuckoo’s nest of government policy-making is responsible? If the Spanish Armada had made such a basic error, they’d have foundered before Drake even had the opportunity to sink them. Were it not for the EU’s having abolished the death penalty, this government official might be hung, drawn and quartered for such a crass mistake!"

Steady lad, steady - I didn’t know Liberal Democrats could get so excited!

Apparently Graham Watson has asked the Foreign Secretary to endeavour to correct the matter so that no quarter be given to Spanish claims to sovereignty.

"We should never have agreed to Spain joining the EU until they renounced their claim," he adds – now he sounds like disgusted of Tunbridge Wells. Or may be Gibraltar’s seemingly most active Euro MP had his tongue firmly in cheek.

What is fact is that the Gibraltar will never be allowed to get in the way of pan-European relations. Britain and Spain share too many common interests for them to flounder on the Rock. The EC just wishes Gibraltar would float away and refuses to be drawn in to the debate or row over what it sees as old Imperial territory. The fact is that the EU was so pleased that Spain had thrown off the Franco era and embraced democracy it was never going to be blackballed by Britain or Brussels over Gibraltar and prevented from joining the European club of supposedly free nations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Spain’s middle class are on the march – well at least 1,000 of them are. The event was reported in the on-line Periodista Digital which asked why the major newspapers, TV channels and radio stations ignored the protest through Madrid to the Palacio de La Moncloa on Saturday. Amongst the protestors’ gripes is the rise in taxes backed by a demand for early elections.

The demonstration was mounted by the Plataforma de las Clases Medias. The middle class activists gathered in the Plaza de Alonso Martínez for a brief meeting at which they denounced the suffering of the Spanish people at the hands of politicians and those well connected with the governing elite.

After the meeting the protestors made their way through the streets under a police escort to the Prime Minister’s residence of the Palacio de La Moncloa. There they shouted – “Zapatero, liar” and “Zapatero, resign”.

During his closing address the president of the Plataforma de las Clases Medias, Enrique de Diego, blasted all the administrations for raising taxes, impoverishing the middle classes and leaving them in despair. He threatened a fiscal insurrection in January if the government did not immediately close the ministries of housing, equality and culture.

The action group has called for a general strike between noon and 13.00 on Thursday February 4 of next year. On the same day all Spaniards are asked to gather outside their town hall to protest in a general and intense demonstration against maladministration and corruption.

A thousand angry middle class people a revolution does not make. However whilst we are used to the unions and left wing parties taking to the streets in support of the unemployed, working class and disadvantaged the middle class are expected to stay put in their comfort zone and only speak out against the government of the day over the drinks at a dinner party. It would seem the times are changing and this economic crisis has given a voice to the silent, middle-class, majority.

(Photo: Periodista Digital)

Monday, November 9, 2009


Here’s an astonishing tale! Cristina Díaz Carrasco has denounced the possible theft of her brother who was born in the municipal hospital in La Línea de la Concepción in 1967. La Línea is Spain’s border town with Gibraltar. The baby is said to have died at the hospital a few days after his birth.

Now this woman, who lives in Irún in northern Spain, has told her story to the newspaper Diagonal and it has been picked up by the rest of the media. She said she has informed the Judge Baltasar Garzón of what had happened in case this was another of “los niños de Franquismo” of which there are cases throughout Spain including the province of Cádiz.

On November 5 1967, her mother, Adela Carrasco Martínez, was admitted to La Línea hospital and gave birth to a son who was alive. She then says they told her mother that the baby had died from breathing problems. They did not allow her mother to see her corpse and they told her to advise her family. The father was working overseas at the time but the paternal grandmother demanded to see the baby in the mortuary. Not only did she see the tiny corpse but had a photograph taken to record the event (see photograph).

The hospital said it would take care of the burial and the family were told it was placed in La Línea cemetery after being baptised. Cristina’s family came to La Línea every summer for their holidays and went to the cemetery to place flowers. In 1980 they could not visit the cemetery as there were extensive works being carried out but when her mother died she had recorded on the stone memorial the name of her deceased son – Cristina’s brother.

Then the mystery deepens for in between the time the cemetery was closed and its re-opening the baby’s resting place disappeared. They checked the cemetery archive and there is no record of the brother being buried there – neither in 1967, nor 1966 or 1968. The Registro Civil says there is no certificate for the birth or death of Jesús Díaz Carrasco. Cristina has contacted the hospital but after two years she has yet to receive a reply.

Now it could be that as Cristina’s mother had no large close family nearby she was targeted and her baby given to another woman. However the photograph shows us there was a dead baby at the hospital at that time – if it wasn’t Jesús Díaz Carrasco, who was it? Does a death certificate or burial record exist for another deceased new born baby at that time?

Needless to say Cristina Díaz Carrasco is now telling her story to the local media to see if any other people have suffered a similar experience. On November 5 1967 her mother was attended at the hospital by a midwife called Doña Marina and on September 26 1962, when her sister Flor was born, a Doctor Nogales looked after her. However the possibility exists that her 42-year-old brother is alive and well and living somewhere in Spain.

Friday, November 6, 2009


In my small village street in Cádiz province there are around 20 houses. Several years ago my neighbours Chris and Richard invited me one evening for a drink along with some of their friends. I found myself talking for a lengthy period to Arnold who lived just doors away.

Now Arnold (de Wease) is American and had lived in the village for many years. I was fascinated to learn that in a previous life he had been a journalist and worked for many of the USA’s top newspapers.

Two years ago Arnold was a lucky man for he sold his house high before the market collapsed and moved inland to Granada province where he purchased a far cheaper house that is now his base. In between times he travels the world, largely in the Far East. True sometimes he stays with family or friends but rather than the intrepid American of old who trekked from Hilton to Hilton he stays in cheap boarding houses. I should add Arnold is no spring chicken, more a well matured broiler – so I doff my tattered hat to him.

When Arnold is on his travels he sends a round-robin missive to his friends but generally doesn’t correspond so I was delighted and flattered to receive an email from him this week.

The majority of readers of my blog are in Europe and the USA where we take the freedom of the internet for granted. So Arnold’s email came as an acute reminder that for many people the freedoms we enjoy simply do not exist. So I will now hand over to Arnold who can explain the situation far better than I and he also tells the tale of the endangered pandas of Chengdu:

“I am now in Bangkok and on 27th this month to Boxing Day I will be back in Burma where blogs and everything else are censored or embargoed and Internet connections are so bad there that it is almost impossible to get on-line. I will have to wait for my return to Thailand to read your fine column. Keep it going, hombre.

“Internet is better in China, though outgoing and incoming blogs are embargoed. Not even Facebook can get over the Great Wall of China. But after returning from Burma Boxing Day I can pick up your blogs again until my return to China in a few months.

“My travel reports aren’t yet embargoed by Chinese censors unless a statement or word is considered a threat to government policy. A couple of years ago I filed a report praising the 105-hectare panda reserve that is a beautiful and wild-like park in Chengdu where the lovely beasts are protected from road killing, poachers, etc., but made the mistake of titling it Sanctuary for Endangered Pandas. "Endangered" was a suspect word and the file attachment wouldn’t move. After a few attempts to send it I changed the title simply to Pandas and it went without a hitch.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Every day I receive and read press releases from town halls, governments and political parties. They tend to be commenting on serious matters so little to chuckle about there.

The exception was 13 years ago when I ran the English language service of a radio station broadcasting out of Benahavís. At 16.00 every afternoon the fax machine would spring in to life and pages would poor out with press releases from Marbella town hall. It was during the Jesús Gil era and more often than not the first pages would be a communication from the great man himself taking politicians, business people, the government or the media to task. Let us just say Jesús Gil had a lively, fruity way with words so whilst you could never broadcast or publish his thoughts they did make amusing reading.

So wind on to yesterday – who has made me chuckle? The answer is a press release from Gibraltar’s GSLP – Liberal Opposition which came to me from Dr Joseph Garcia – the Liberal leader.

To start at the beginning on Monday October 26 the new Governor of Gibraltar arrived on the Rock and was duly sworn in to office. Under the title – We Govern – You’re the Governor – I wrote in my Gibraltar column:

“Last Monday Gibraltar welcomed its new Governor, Sir Adrian Johns, a naval man, to the Rock. The difference between Sir Adrian and all his predecessors is that whilst he still wears the cocked hat he governs under the new Constitution which basically means he doesn’t govern at all.

"The words of greeting from the Chief Minister (who does govern) and those of the leader of the Opposition (who has governed and would have liked to do so again) were also a warning shot across his bows of how future affairs would be conducted.”

I then went on to give chunks of Chief Minister Peter Caruana’s speech which specifically related to the situation of the new governor. It was only yesterday as I read through them again that it struck me that Sir Adrian was well aware of Gibraltar’s new status without having to be nagged on the matter by Caruana. It would have been quite appropriate for the chief minister to point to the new status quo but his speech of welcome became engrossed with nitty gritty and was frankly hectoring.

Then the press release from the GSLP – Liberal Opposition plopped in to my inbox and I did chuckle when I read:

“The Opposition consider that the majority of Gibraltarians have other more important things to worry about than whether there should be someone in Gibraltar who is called the Deputy Governor or called something else. Nobody is going to lose any sleep over this.”

I agree!

The statement then continued: “However, given that Mr Caruana has become obsessed about it, it is important to remind him that his view on this aspect of the Constitution is simply that, a personal judgment or a personal interpretation.

“In the past, Mr Caruana has been very quick to point out, whenever someone has not shared the Government’s view on any particular aspect of the Constitution, that the complainant should take the matter to the Supreme Court. A legal opinion by one or more lawyers cannot be the arbiter of whether the United Kingdom Government is in breach of the Constitution, or not respecting the Constitution, simply because they have someone called Deputy Governor in a post in Gibraltar.

“It is true to say that the Constitution no longer requires the use of the words Deputy Governor, but the fact that the requirement has ceased does not convert it into a prohibition. If the UK Government considers it appropriate to describe the officials concerned as Deputy Governor and as Assistant Deputy Governor, reflecting their role in acting upwards as representative of Her Majesty when the need arises, one can only assume that Her Majesty is satisfied with these arrangements and the Opposition has no problem with them.”

Well if it’s good enough for the Queen it should be good enough for Caruana.

If Sir Adrian was in any doubt, and I doubt that he was, about the prickly customer who holds the office of chief minister of the government of Gibraltar – he certainly isn’t now. The problem for Peter Caruana is that his speech was given at a formal ceremony, indeed on an historic day for Gibraltar, but rather than setting out the bench mark for future relations with the Governor and Britain – in the cold light of day many of his words hold him open to derision.

Embarrassment for him – but a chuckle for the rest of us and perhaps the Governor too!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


At this time of year the majority of the people of Britain wear their poppy with pride. It can also be seen worn around the world where there are large communities of Britons.

The red poppy is our symbol of remembrance and this coming Sunday is the day when the nation commemorates all those who died in the world’s wars.

When I was young Remembrance Sunday was firmly linked with the veterans of World War I even though many had also died and suffered in World War II, Korea and other places where British forces served.

Now the survivors of World War I have all gone. However today I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph from Lt Col T.K. Courtenay (retired) who acts as a battlefield guide in which he told the story of the poppy.

“Despite the mud and desolation of the Ypres Salient, every year in springtime the seeds of the red poppy flourished. It was a Canadian doctor, Major John McCrae, who running his dressing station at Essex Farm, witnessed the physically and mentally wounded men brought to him for lifesaving surgery. Many survived; sadly, many did not.

“For McCrae the young red petals and green leaves of the poppy gave him hope and consolation among such carnage. This inspired him to write the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” and in the last lines lies the real message: If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/In Flanders fields.”

Today it is the brave servicemen and women - from Britain as well as the USA - laying down their lives in Afghanistan who are most on our minds. It is a sad irony that Afghanistan is as famous as Flanders for its poppy fields – and is becoming infamous for its carnage.