Sunday, January 30, 2011


In my previous blog I wrote about the murder of 13-year-old girl, María Esther Jimenéz, in a small village I know well.

By a tragic coincidence a 28-year-old José María Caracuel also died in the village I call home just days later.

His death is the subject of an investigation and given the wild rumours and differing versions of events that are circulating it is best to leave any comment on that to after it has been concluded.

What is fact is that José María went to the health centre on the Friday afternoon to complain about the swelling in his leg. He was sent home with instructions by the duty doctor. Next day, the Saturday morning, he returned to the health centre still in great pain. The same doctor was on duty but was called away on an emergency. Before he could return José María died of a blood clot on his leg.

For any 28-year-old to die in such a fashion is a tragedy but especially when he was, I believe, the only person in his large family bringing in a salary.

On the Monday his funeral was held in the village’s cemetery but afterwards his family and friends gathered at the health centre in what can only be described as an ugly demonstration. Their anger and pain is understandable but cries of “assassins” aimed at the health centre staff were totally unacceptable and an assault on the building was only prevented by the presence of the Guardia Civil and local police.

Two other people at the demonstration were the mayor and one of his henchman councillors. I am reliably told by a journalist I trust that when the mayor saw the Europa Sur photographer and reporter he made himself scarce. Indeed he does not feature in the press photos.

Now it so happens that the mayor and his councillor for health had only a week or so before this tragedy met with the health authority to voice their fears over such a tragedy happening. They want an additional doctor as when, as in this instance, a medic is called away on an emergency there is no one on duty at the health centre. So in dreadful circumstances their fears had been proved true.

However, whilst to his credit the mayor attends the majority of funerals of his residents, his place at the health centre should not have been standing with the family but urging the crowd to disperse because the staff are bearing the brunt of the lack of personnel and need support not labelling assassins!

Yet this May there are elections for the town hall. The administration has been firmly PSOE but with the party’s slump nationally the PP, PA and IU all hope to win power or more seats. There is a lot at stake politically which brings us back to José María.

Whilst his family and friends have every right to vent their anger and protest the banners that have since appeared and the petitions in bars all bear the mark of political activists rather than the bereaved. It would seem politicians are at work and hope to benefit from José María’s death.

Meanwhile many in the village are rallying to the side of the doctor who has served them reliably for years. He knows he has enemies but till now didn’t realise just how many friends. The truth in the end will out and justice will be done. Whether another doctor is posted to the health centre remains to be seen. In the meantime those with political ambitions perform their own tragedy.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Reporting on the news means that death and tragedy are all part of the daily menu.

Frequently it is gangland killing – the settling of accounts – as the Spanish police refer to it. More often than not these shootings involve British criminals operating on the Costa del Sol.

This week was rather different. I was writing about the disappearance of a 13-year old girl, María Esther Jimenéz, who was found dead 24 hours later having been bludgeoned to death with a brick. Her body was discovered by a fireman searching for her in the pump house of a swimming pool.

As my deadline was not to later this week I let the dust settle before going to the scene.

It turns out the girl I knew by sight. She lived next door to the car workshop I use and on a street I frequently park in.

The pool pump house is across the garden wall from the daughter of my one time neighbour who lives with her husband and two young children just yards from where the girl met her death.

She lived in a small village and during her last evening from sitting with friends in the bus shelter, to asking a bar for a drink of water, to finally meeting her death at the hands of her assassin – she was never more than four minutes from her front door.

The village was promised an arrest or arrests within days. If only life was that simple. It will take time. Meanwhile there is a child killer on the loose in their midsts and they fear for their youngsters.

On this occasion because I know the village, know the people, knew the girl by sight, use the pizza restaurant where she planned to celebrate her birthday and the place where she perished - it is not a news story – it is a shared tragedy.

Far too close for comfort!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I have written a couple of articles in recent months about the plight of homeless people in La Línea who are forced to sleep at nights on the town’s streets. Just over two weeks ago in the Costa del Sol News and Panorama I featured a British resident of San Roque, Mary Finlay, who is organising feeding trips to these unfortunates once a week – I will return to her work later in this article. However I start off with the disclosure that at least two of those sleeping rough are mentally ill.

Their case has been highlighted by the Plataforma Los Parados – the action group speaking for the ten thousand plus jobless in the border town. They have written to the Andalucía Ombudsman over the men’s plight.

They say that because of the economic crisis these people with mental health problems have no roofs over their heads hence they are sleeping outside in the winter cold and rain. One of these is 43-year-old Juan Medina López who has been abandoned since before Christmas and is receiving no psychiatric help or social assistance nor can he or the others be attended to at other municipal centres.

They told the Ombudsman that between Monday and Friday the men are invited for a meal and a shower at the Centro CEA but at night they are left to their own devices. Incredibly unless they are attended to by an Andalucía health service professional they cannot be given a bed in any of the refuges for the “sin techos” – and no such person has been near them.

They action group expressed its anger that these men have been abandoned by the very authorities that make such a pretence of caring for the homeless and mentally ill. The Plataforma says it is only thanks to local residents that they have clothes, blankets, food and hot drinks as they pass the nights living rough on the streets.

Indeed Mary Finlay told me: “I know one of those chaps, never lifts his head or acknowledges our presence, but at least the food goes and he uses the blanket. I will make sure to leave him some good clothing. It is so pathetic, he always takes his shoes off to sleep in the bunker, trying to maintain standards.”

J J Uceda also informed me that it’s hoped that Juan Medina López may be given shelter in a home in San Roque from the end of this month. He added: “The problem with mentally ill patients is that they can be dangerous because of their illnesses and there is no law to oblige them to enter a centre.”

In my article on the project started by Mary Finlay I appealed to any readers who could help to please do so – and people on the Costa del Sol and in Gibraltar generously responded. For your solidarity Mary, her team and the abandoned people of La Línea’s send their heartfelt thanks.

Monday, January 24, 2011


In my village many of what are today elderly men left their homes in the 1950s to work in Germany. They still speak some German to this day and they or their widows have sent to them a monthly pension from Germany.

There are photos of my street with my neighbours’ children playing, their mothers gathered together but no men in sight because they were a 1,000 miles away. True they sent home money but the children were raised without a father.

These men, labourers and agricultural workers, were part of the great migration from Spain in search of work. Now in 2011 it would appear the exercise is about to be repeated except this time jobless but qualified young Spaniards would be making the trip instead of sons of the soil.

The move has been revealed in the magazine Der Spiegel. The aim is to partially solve the German deficiency in young professionals especially those who have been left jobless by the Spanish economic crash.

According to Der Spiegel the subject will be high on the agenda of the German-Spanish summit to be held in Madrid on February 3 to be attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. It will form a bilateral labour agreement between the two countries. It is not only Spain that will benefit but other nations in the south and the east of Europe which are suffering from the debt crisis and unemployment.

It is understood that young qualified Spaniards and Portuguese are the preferred candidates by Germany because of the ease of movement between the EU countries.

Studies have suggested that Germany needs between 500,000 and 800,000 new qualified workers. The key areas are engineering and telecommunications both seen as important growth sectors for its economy.

Germany is the leading economy in Europe and grew by 3.6 per cent in 2010 with predictions of 2.3per cent for this year. Hand in hand with this growth it has seen its own jobless levels gradually reduce.

The good news is that those Spanish graduates will at last be offered well paid and secure jobs. The bad news is that Spain will loose a generation of those it has educated to university level and who are highly skilled – who once gone – will be very difficult to lure back. Once again families will be broken up and again the curse of emigration will return to the Iberian Peninsula.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I have left you in peace for the last week or so – be grateful because now I’m back and once again the blogs start. Whilst I was in London I took a close look at the new Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband. Of him I will write in the near future but for now just let me say he is less slick than Blair or Cameron but all the more impressive for that!

Since my return I have been catching up on my reading including the Ley del Olivar which aims to maintain Andalucía as a world leader in the olive sector.

Now I have always associated olive oil with France, Spain, Italy, Greece – I guess all the Med countries. However I was rather surprised to learn that currently the olive accounts for 24 per cent of the value of the agricultural production in Andalucía.

It is the principal activity in over 300 municipalities in the region and generates over 22 million work days a year and there are 250,000 families dependent on the income derived from olive growing.

Some 1.5 million hectares of land in Andalucía are dedicated to growing olive trees. That is 60 per cent of the total in Spain and 30 per cent of that in European.

Andalucía produces 40 per cent of all the olive oil in the world and 20 per cent of the eating olives. Of those totals 21 per cent of the oil is exported and seven per cent of the olives.

The Andalucía minister for agriculture and fisheries, Clara Aguilera, says the new law will recognise the “unique place in Europe” of the region’s olive sector. It will set out the strategic role in plays in creating wealth and employment, its social cohesion role and its high value to the environment.

I will leave you to contemplate those impressive facts as you munch an olive with a glass of wine and prepare to cook a meal with olive oil. Or maybe like me you also like your morning toast with olive oil and of course tomato. Enough food for thought there for us all.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Britons will be all too familiar with the Irish joke which pokes fun at the members of the nation across the water. Of course they tell the same jokes in Ireland except they are called Kerry jokes, aimed at folks from the western county. Many nations throughout the world have a similar vehicle for ‘taking the innocent Michael’ and without a doubt the Spanish equivalent is the Lepe joke – but the joke has turned to reality.

Lepe is a town in the province of Huelva in Andalucía and last Thursday night a man broke in to a bar. It is not known what time the robbery occurred but it was discovered by the owners when they opened up on Friday morning.

He stole from the premises a number of Serrano hams but no cash or other items. The thief is the subject of a find and capture warrant and the police, like the Canadian Mounties of old, are confident of getting their man. This is because in his hurry to flee he left behind his DNI identity card and his mobile phone – so the police know who he is, where he lives, where he works, where he banks, what car he owns - indeed everything there is to know about him. Only in Lepe!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


On the Monday after Christmas the Partido Popular formally broke the anti political turncoat pact with PSOE meaning that politicians deemed of committing such acts could be accepted as candidates in the forthcoming elections.

In Andalucía this will affect El Puerto de Santa María, Jabugo, Chiclana de la Frontera, Alcaucín, Estepona, Ronda, Cañete de los Torres, Yunquera, Mengibar, Bollullos del Condado, Sierra de Yeguas, Jabalquinto, Morelabor and Genalguacil. However there are also numerous cases in the regions of Aragón, Asturias, the Canary Islands, Cantabría, Castilla y Leon, Castilla – La Mancha, Cataluña, Galicia, Madrid and Valencia.

The agreement was meant to stop a politician or a group of same from standing and being elected for one party then switching allegiance after he, she or they were elected. A commission of experts was set up to determine whether a politician or politicians had become turncoats and the pact was aimed at preventing their adopted party from accepting them as future candidates.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this can be found in Ronda. At the last election the mayor Antonio Marín had led his eight councillors from the Partido Andalucista to victory as the largest party and continued its coalition with the Partido Popular.

Months later Marín broke the accord with the PP and joined in coalition with PSOE instead. Then he and his eight fellow PA councillors resigned from their party, now sit as non-aligned councillors but have all become members of PSOE.

This has left the Partido Andalucista without any councillors at the town hall when it was elected as the largest group by the voters. The commission on political turncoats deemed Marín and his eight PA councillors all to be guilty. However the breaking of the pact means he will now almost certainly lead PSOE into the next municipal election.

It should also be noted that before he left the PA for socialist PSOE Marín had declared an interest in throwing in his lot with his then coalition partners the centre right Partido Popular. The move fell through because the PP was not keen to have him. This May the voters of Ronda will have the final say!