Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Media Monopolies

That great apologist for democracy, the Zapadente of Spain, has cajoled the Supreme Court into changing its rule about radio and television licences. The idea was, no operator could have more than 50% of any one market but, don't you know, the free market economy should take care of that. Well, mix ‘free market economy’ with politics and you get the chap who supports your government receiving all the licences and the advertising revenue that goes with them. So, in the PSOE nación of Andalucia, the Ser gets the lion’s share of the radio stations (they were even given ours by Chaves, forcing the COPE Mojácar to re-tune elsewhere). In fact, in Andalucía, thee are hardly any COPE stations – and the few that survive are on the Medium Wave (not under Seville’s control).
Now, new licences are available – thanks to the government – in, uh,… just the PP controlled towns and cities throughout Andalucía. Guess who is going to get all those nice new licences.

The Ser, by the way, belongs to Spain’s answer to Murdoch. He is called Jesús Polanco and he appeared on the scene at the same time as his friend Felipe Gonzalez. Polanco also controls Canal Digital (Canal Plus satellite TV, the only satellite system in Spain), ‘El País’ the leading newspaper, many other newspapers and magazines (‘La Voz de Almería’ being one of the seediest); ‘Santillana’ children’s school-books (plus, of course, the content therein), Channel Four TV (‘La Cuatro’), and massive businesses and media monopolies in Latin America.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Some New Apartments

Poor Steve - that's his house, the white one you can hardly see to the right of the crane. His land is rather easier to see - it starts on the other side of the huge gash in the valley there and wanders off behind. Of course, he can't build as much as a bee-hive there, while the front bit is the second stage of a mass of apartments (off scene to the left).
The Seprona people (the branch of the Guardia Civil that deals with 'the destuction of the natural habitat') put him on to 'Costas' which deals with coastal and river-lands. This, claims Steve, is a dry river bed, a 'rambla'. You can't build in a dry river bed because every ten years or so, it becomes a raging wet river-bed for a day or two. Well no, he was told, it's a 'barranco' - a 'ravine'!
Except his bit.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Strange Case of the Murdered Mayor

There was a board-game on the shelf, a game I hadn’t seen in years. If I tell you that Colonel Mustard was found, dead, in the library with a bloodied candlestick lying next to him, you will probably remember the afternoons sat on the floor all those years ago, surrounded by your family and friends, as you struggled to unmask the murderer.
I’ve forgotten if you used dice, or cards, but the game was called Cluedo.
In Spain, murders are usually as humdrum as they are anywhere else. Usually it’s a family member and the case is quickly solved. Sometimes it’s a terrorist, whether from the Basque Country (ETA), from Catalonia (Terra Lliure) or, as it appears, from North Africa as in the case of the 11th March 2004 bombings in Madrid.
Sad little murders performed by frustrated husbands or scheming step-mothers; together with dreadful killings committed by enraged and disturbed individuals to make a political point. Murders where the victims are usually unknown to the killers and the only criterion is ‘how many can I kill?’
However, Hercule Poirot would have been pleased this winter by the murder of the mayor of Fago, a tiny and forgotten village in the far north of Spain, located at the end of some sorry track high in the Pyrenean province of Huesca.
Fago has just thirty inhabitants and all of them were initially under suspicion after the mayor was found dead, in a ditch, with four heavy-bore shotgun wounds to his head and face.
There were many different motives as well. Miguel Grima had held back on hunting licences, had stopped the village bar from putting out tables and chairs and had upset the local farmers as well.
So one night, as the snow lay quietly on the hills around, a few sharp explosions woke the villagers.
On the death of the mayor, the nation’s press came to the tiny village to search for details. A gruesome murder and a handful of suspects. Was it Mrs Purple, who said she was in the kitchen… or Father Black who was in the church? Perhaps that vixen Miss Pink had something to do with it, or the postman, Mr White, or, as he clearly prefers to be called, Señor Blanco.
The police were also much in evidence, taking down the details of everyone’s alibis and checking the corpse and the crime-scene for clues.
The general feeling gathered by both the press and the detectives was that no one in the tight-lipped community cared for their alcalde. He had been mayor for more than a decade, and had managed to be involved in some fifty court-cases against his fellow villagers or the occasional home owning ‘week-enders’ for all kinds of spiteful reasons. There was no one to mourn him and, as one villager, loosened by a glass or two of wine, suggested to a Daily Telegraph correspondent - ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.
The murder of the Partido Popular mayor occurred on January 12th and three weeks later, after the nation had been pulling out its collective hair in curiosity, a man stepped forward to take the blame. I did it, said the PSOE candidate for the village’s top job.
Santiago Mainar has been in prison since the beginning of February, and was briefly seen by the public as he was transferred to the provincial clink. ‘I’m innocent’, he shouted, to the evident frustration of the police.
A week later, another man turned himself in, claiming that he had pulled the trigger of the shot-gun: one-two, one-two. He was quickly released. ‘We have our man’ said a police spokesperson, unconvincingly.
The case is still open and the details remain elusive even if the motive is clear. But then, everyone had a motive. Perhaps they cooked up the whole plot in the bar (at an inside table). A bottle of blood-red wine and a few glasses. A whisper from a little girl. ‘Daddy, I found this game’.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sevillana v. People Power

The electric company Sevillana was stymied in its attempt to raise a pylon on private land behind Turre on Tuesday 13th February. A band of labourers were erecting the offending pylon when the owner of the land and a group of people from Levante sin Cables Aereos arrived and 'took possession' of the field. You can see from the picture that this particular piece of land had been ploughed ready for planting a crop. As the two sides took position, a company engineer called the police and eventually a stunning twelve of them arrived. While a few people were quite excited by what was going on, the general feeling was calm, although a crop-dusting helicopter working the area passed overhead spraying something over the company - probably Nembutol.
The scene reminded me of a book called 'The Milagro Beanfield War' where a developer needs to run a large water-pipe over a smallholder's field of beans.
Eventually, the day was taken by the protestors and the engineers were sent away by the police, who agreed that their expropriation papers were not in order.
On the following day, Sevillana were once again sent off the land by the police, as they still didn’t have the right documents. By Thursday 15th February, The engineers were looking for other activities as a judge in Seville failed to give Sevillana a judicial order to remove the protestors from the land. A victory for the 'little guy'.
On a more serious note, the overhead cables are coming. The lack of available power (!) means that those delightful new apartments being built along the Mojacar coast cannot be occupied as they can't receive a new electricity licence from Sevillana (part of Endesa, the company due to be sold to the German E.On soon). The solution to the shortage of power is to build another line - eleven kilometres with at least 42 massive pylons, 25 metres high, stretching from Los Gallardos to Mojácar, running over private land, near houses and along the riverbed below the mountain town of Mojácar, disturbing the view.
The simple answer is either to build the line underground or indeed to bring the power on another line from Carboneras where Spain's fourth largest (and dirtiest) power station is located.The regular surges and snaps in the local electricity current are due, says Sevillana, to them being right on the brink of a meltdown. This is patent rubbish, as the amount of power used at this time is considerably less than during the summer months and Sevillana is just playing a game of brinkmanship.
Another tactic, according to press reports, is for the company to encourage the developers to make representation themselves, arguing understandably that their buildings or urbanisations need electricity.
Since, of course, Sevillana acts as a monopoly, it is hard to go up against them and the company has become used to steamrolling over any complaints.

Levante without Overhead Cables

The LSCA 'Levante sin Cables Aereos' is run by the well known local historian Juan Grima. The lawyer for the group is José Ramón Cantalejos, who is on record as saying that some landowners might have paid an ‘under-the-table’ fee to move the line away from their estates. The group has an English branch which is chaired by Jeanne Henny and she encourages as many people as possible to join. ‘Only with numbers will our voices be heard’, says Jeanne.To join in, contact Jeanne on or fill out a membership form (available from The New Entertainer in the Radio Cope tower at the Parque Comercial on Mojacar Playa or at the Campsa Petrol Station in Los Gallardos), with fifteen euros membership fee.

Between the threat of expropriation and demolition of homes, the overhead cables, the water line in Sopalmo and, eventually, the trench between the coast and the hills which will house the AVE high-speed train, it is increasingly evident that the local residents must take an interest in the local infrastructure and become involved in their municipalities, their politics and their future.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sopalmo Protest

Sopalmo is a tiny village between Mojácar and Carboneras. Today it was the scene of a protest against the water company, Aguagest, which wants to run a mains water pipe from the Carboneras desalination plant, straight through the village, and to build a large water deposit just above. As Spanish watchers will remember, a water deposit just above a centre of population can be dangerous, as happened in Melilla a few years back, when nine people died after a prefabricated wall in the the water deposit gave way - see La Semana November 1997( ). Today, the protest went off peacefully and one can only hope that the publicity will have some effect. Curiosly, Mojácar is under threat from various large companies - Aguagest, Sevillana (who wants to destroy the view from the village by building a line of pylons), various shady speculators (as usual), and the government (who wants to devide the entire valley into two parts, the left and right bank of the AVE high speed (no stops) train).
Strong government is needed!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It's hard work this new version of Blogger.
Ahem. About the axe-head. I bought it in a weak moment from a large ferretería on the beach (who everybody who knows, knows who). As usual, it was made in that bit of China that even the Chinese avoid, and after returning home with this thing, and following a couple of healthy swings against an intrusive branch, the neck of the damn thing broke and the flying axe-head nearly brained the dog.
I usually don't use this joker on the beach because he is the old style 'never give a sucker an even break' sort, and most if not all of his stock is rubbish.
Take the plastic skillet that, when I tried to lever a fried egg out of the pan, the skillet actually melted into the mess. The frying pan where the handle fell off (probably the weight of the egg and skillet mixture). How about the garden fork, where the tines bent backwards the first time I stabbed the earth with it. Or the anglepoise lamp with the springs missing (people often wander around the shop looking for bits missing from their own purchase, and they will feel no pain at all as they wrench a fresh spring, cog or whoojumy off of one on the shelf). Then there was the garden trowel where the handle fell off - turned out there was no metal bit inside the handle to give it any strength at all!.
I almost always go to one of the other ferreterias, and come home with reasonably good stock. But this place...