Monday, January 28, 2008

'No to illegal Demolitions' - The Result

Canal Sur dedicated about ten seconds to it on its evening news. Canal Sur TV (Prop. Junta de Andalucía) noted ‘that about 400 ingleses came along to protest against an illegal house being demolished, (roughly adding in their impartial coverage that) even though the house was thoroughly, completely, violently and appallingly illegal and the peace-loving forces of order, freedom and socialism had been obliged to knock it down’. The cameras couldn’t bear to show the ingleses who were massed on one side of the square so they showed the, uh, 400 Spaniards who also showed up in support.
The Voz de Almería was more generous – estimating the crowd at 1,000 people. They quote me in their full-page spread: ‘It’s not a natural case when the bulldozers suddenly show up at your door after five years of living peacefully in your home knowing that your house-paperwork was all approved by the town hall, your lawyer and your estate agent’. I also go on record saying that buying a house can never become some type of a lottery. El Mundo and Ideal also had full-page coverage of the event.
So – it may have been a day to support an unfortunate family who had lost their house arbitrarily and disgracefully, but, Spain being Spain, it was, of course, a day devoted to politics.
Angel Medina (president of Ciudadanos Europeos del Levante) spoke of the Junta’s intention to implement their own plans for our area, including the 50 square kilometre artificial city planned to be raised between Turre, Los Gallardos and Garrucha, and their intention to take away powers from the local town halls guaranteed by both the European Treaty and Spanish Constitution. ‘This area, with no tall buildings and 85% green-belt, with a population living in harmony and with a good standard of living should be the ideal that other areas should aspire towards’, he said.
The councillor for urban planning for Vera, Paco Vázquez, attacked the local PSOE chapter, which was passing round a flyer that roughly said – in allusion to the demolition - ‘good thing too, keep within the law’. ‘They should at least support their fellow citizens of Vera before yapping to their masters in Seville’ the councillor said. The PSOE wants to punish Vera for being run by the wrong party. Vera is Partido Andalucista; Félix López is the mayor who had turned down the PSOE’s offer to switch to their party just before last summer’s local elections.
The mayor of Vera was not allowed to speak ‘to not enter into contempt of court’ and the mayoress of Mojácar told El Mundo that the demolition was ‘inhuman’. The paper also noted the presence of the mayors of Zurgena and Antas (neither of whom, added the reporter, are from the PSOE).
Even Mrs Prior – most understandably – touched on politics in her short speech of thanks to the people when she said that she would like Zapatero to look her in the eye and explain why her home had to go.
The British GMTV and the Daily Telegraph, both with perhaps their own political agenda to make, were also present.
The AUAN – a home-owners’ association based in Albox, a growing town in the interior of the province - had decided not to send their president as special-interest construction groups in that town had suggested that the Vera demonstration might descend into violence. Which was, of course, a most unlikely scenario. Other members of the AUAN, together with members of other groups, associations and so on, came from Cantoria, Turre, Bédar, Los Pinos and Zurgena to lend their support for the Priors.
The autonomous elections (where, as I note in the Ideal article, the Northern Europeans are not allowed to vote) are to be held in March. The assembled protestors applauded Mr and Mrs Prior and the demonstration achieved its first and most important point of solidarity with the British family. The second goal, to stop future demolitions, will be answered one way or the other in the weeks to come.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Demonstration in Vera

Some pictures of today's demonstration in Vera to support Mr and Mrs Prior, whose home was demolished earlier this month by order of the courts. Around 800 people came to lend their support to the Priors. First picture shows Angel Medina from Ciudadanos Europeos del Levante. second picture is of Paco Vázquez, Vera councillor for urban development addressing the crowd. Third picture shows Mrs Prior thanking everyone for their support and kindness. No picture here of me (I spoke and introduced the act), or of the mayor Félix López, who, while present, was not allowed to touch the subject for legal reasons.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

1000 cases

There are around 1,000 'illegal' homes in the province of Almería, denounced as such by the Junta de Andalucía: mainly in the eastern part of the province. Not all the judicial resolutions will end in demolition, says a judge, but he adds that there is a need for more funcionarios (public officials) to study each and every one of the cases. A judge has the final decision regarding demolition or no. The final course of calling in the bulldozers is not an obligatory solution in law (says Judge Luís Columna, the senior Almerian judge).
Readers are reminded that there will be a demonstration in Vera this Sunday at 12 noon in support of the Prior family, whose house was demolished in Vera on January 9th.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ahhh - Democracy in Action

You will no doubt be pleased to read that Democracia Nacional (Love the name, guys) has been (finally) granted permission to hold a demo this Sunday in our capital city to 'recuperate Madrid' against 'all that shite that have come here for far-away lands'.
Me, I'll be staying home.

Come to think of it - the PSOE should ask these bozos to come along to Vera on Sunday 27th January to do a 'counter-demonstration' against what the Voz de Almeria calls 'los británicos que se concentrarán ... para protestar conta las amenazas de derribo que pesan sobre muchas de sus viviendas'.
Nazis soon sort them out...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Demolition in Vera - Part Two

From the top.

*Mrs Prior and a neighbour collected signatures and expressions of support from the people of Vera outside the Town Hall. You can see their 'before and after' pictures.

*Mrs Prior (centre) is joined by Angel Medina, the vice-mayor of Mojácar and president of the Ciudadanos Europeos de Mojácar, a political party which helps to support foreign residents locally.

*A meeting with the mayor of Vera Félix Lopez. See for report.

*The remains. The house, left, has been removed. The garage and store-room, on a separate building certificate, survive on the right of the picture.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Ripple Effect

I had a message on my phone to call someone. ‘The house next door is being knocked down! The police are there and workers and a big bulldozer…
It was the beginning of a scandal which is rocking Spain, putting off potential settlers here and, of course, worrying many of the foreign residents already established. One house, as if the Junta de Andalucía was testing the waters to see what would happen. ‘We’ll knock down some foreigner’s house in the middle of Almería’, you could hear them thinking back in Seville, ‘and see what happens’.
Seville, the city and capital of the Andalucian autonomy, is as far away from Vera as is Madrid. Here in Almería – a wealthy province with agriculture (intensive farming under plastic to the west), marble in the north and tourism along the coast – we feel independent of Seville. They take our cash and keep it for themselves, we gripe. They don’t look after us in the way they look after themselves, we groan.
Just like they did with the South American colonies centuries ago.
In 1978, when Spain divided itself into seventeen autonomies, the people of Almería distinguished themselves by being the only provincials who voted against their proposed autonomy. Waste of time, of course; they got shuffled in anyway.
So, the opinion here is that the demolition of a house, located on some scrub-land near Vera, away from the motorway, the proposed AVE train-line, the beaches, hotels, apartment blocks and so on, was a calculated political act.
The national elections, together with most (but not all) of the autonomous elections, come up on March 9th. Already, we are in the ‘pre-campaign’. Under the law, they can’t ask for your vote (until the last fifteen days), but, by Gum, they can suggest wonderful and improbable ideas, reward their friends and, as here, punish their enemies.
I’m being a bit strong? The government has just agreed to export water from the desalination plant in Carboneras, in large sea-tankers, to Barcelona. Fresh water from Almería (the driest province in Spain), for our Catalonian friends who, three years ago, managed to stop the proposed water canal from the Ebro river down to Murcia and, uh, Almería.
It’s all politics. Vera town is controlled by the Partido Andalucista. The mayor of Vera recently put a spoke in the Junta’s delightful plan to build a gigantic eight-town sewage plant in Vera. Perhaps this is payback time.
Let’s look at the facts. There are half a million houses with some problems with their paperwork. So, instead of making an example by knocking down an illegal eyesore (the Hotel Algarrobico in Carboneras springs to mind), or an empty block of flats built by some rich pirate, we are faced with one single demolition of one house owned and used by what should be Spain’s dream customer: a reasonably wealthy retired couple who puts money into the local economy every day of the week.
If each British resident spends 500 euros a month (most of us spend more) and there are a million of us (according to the BBC), then we have five hundred million euros a month being sloshed merrily into the Spanish economy. Six billion euros a year. Throw in (forgive me) the French, Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Americans, Argentineans and so on and you can double the figure – 12 billion euros a year – at least – all for the cost of an occasional letter to a local town hall complaining about the noise.
Why on earth would our dear politicians be so foolish as to put this at risk? Perhaps they thought that there was no down-side, beyond putting a couple, with no political voice whatsoever, into the street.
However, the British press has played the story up. The British TV has run it on the morning shows. It's front page in Le Monde. A German magazine has just taken a room at the nearby hotel. A friend tells me his son saw it on Australian television! So what happens? Instead of one family being destroyed – no big deal in the great scheme of things – a whole wave of wealthy people who were considering buying in Spain, in injecting yet more money into the Spanish economy – at a time when sales are down, mortgages are tight and builders are hurling themselves off the top floor of their own skyscrapers – are deciding that, all things considered, perhaps they’ll buy in Cyprus instead.
One foolish pebble thrown into a pond has caused a gigantic ripple. Let’s hope its enough to swamp the PSOE.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The National Anthem

For years the tune never had any words. Duh duh, duh duh, di da da da... etc. Now, finally, the lyric to Spain's National Anthem has been written and approved.

¡Viva España!
Cantemos todos juntos
con distinta voz
y un solo corazón

¡Viva España!
desde los verdes valles
al inmenso mar,
un himno de hermandad

Ama a la Patria
pues sabe abrazar,
bajo su cielo azul,
pueblos en libertad

Gloria a los hijos
que a la Historia dan
justicia y grandeza
democracia y paz.

Plácido Domingo will introduce the hymn officially on January 21st.

Actually, no he won't. The lyrics have received such bad press that they have been retired and can now only be read on blog-sites like this one.

It's back to - Duh Duh, duh duh, di da...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Demolition in Vera, Almería

Here's a picture of the home of a retired English family being demolished by Junta de Andalucía goons. The house had building permission, was connected to the water and electricity supplies and had been built four and a half years ago. The owners have now been left destitute.

The top photo comes from the local paper.

I went over there this morning and found the bulldozer still at work (second photo). There are several homes nearby and - according to a local TV channel - perhaps another ten are at risk.

The house in the picture has a name-plate affixed to the wall outside: 'Tranquilidad'.

A picture of Helen Prior, worried, angry, tired... and currently homeless.

In answer to a comment below about planning permissions.

The rules have changed recently regarding the rights of the town hall, being the local authority, to grant building licences (and make money from the permits). Now, the Junta de Andalucía has taken on this right and is in direct conflict with many town halls throughout Almería. They have even sanctioned this in a daring new plan - opposed by all the local town halls. The new 'plan', rather more fully known as the 'Plan de Ordenación Territorial del Levante Almeriense' (POTLA), designed by the Junta de Andalucía, sees this part of the autonomy as hotels and tourism. Towns are severly restricted in the number of homes they can now build. There is no reference in the POTLA to 'residential tourism'. In fact, the short-sighted document wants to provide cheap hotels to East European tourism (wow!) and to build a conference hall in Garrucha (where there are currently no hotels).

From the government buildings of San Telmo in Seville, occupied since time immemorial by the PSOE apparatus, Almería is too big a prize to leave to the Almerians.

We may see more demolitions, particularly in Cuevas, Vera and Albox - where the fault can be placed at the door of the PP or the PA. Meanwhile, in Carboneras (PSOE) the gigantic, empty hulk of the Hotel Algarrobico remains on the shore. Unfinished, unusable... yet undemolished.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


The first baby born in Spain in the New Year - apparently a couple of seconds past midnight - comes from Bolivian parents. He was born in a Madrid hospital.
The first baby born in the New Year in Almería, a few seconds later, came into the world with English parents.
And to complete the apparent dominence of foreigners here - the first woman murdered by her husband in 2008 came, unfortunately, also from elsewhere. She was German and was killed in Coín, Malaga, this week by her husband. On her birthday.