Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scientists are actively culling the Spanish Lynx

From Iberica 2000.
After 15 years of investigations, experts in knowing what is happening to Spanish lynx have discovered that research biologists are killing lynxes, or at least they are allowing the lynxes to die! Spanish scientists are killing lynxes. They don't want the lynx population to increase. If it improved, they wouldn’t continue to earn so much money. Because the lynx would then be removed from the list of 'Critically Endangered Species'!
This is why, for 25 years, the lynx population hasn't improved but rather decreased! Upcoming reports at , written in Spanish, explain all the facts, the conclusions, and why and how are these mammals being killed, or being allowed to die, by those who, precisely, earn big amounts of euros from the European Union and Life funds and companies, to, supposedly, protect them. Those who investigate the lynx's scientists, have discovered deep connections between CSIC (the main scientific Spanish governmental corporation), political administrations and The Biological Station in Doñana (Estación Biológica de Doñana), and many connections with people and certain corporations.
So says Iberica2000, a respected ecological group (see their webpage with material in English and Spanish).

Friday, September 19, 2008

The 12.00 from Cantoria

Cantoria. Sunrise. I had agreed to meet Becky from the television crew in the main square – or perhaps it’s the only square – in the small interior town for an early morning bit of filming. Me looking dashing in a (for once) ironed shirt, sitting at a bar-table and droning on convincingly about the damage that the Spanish are doing to their economy by threatening to knock down homes which have not only their town hall paperwork in order (one way or another) but happen to belong to Northern Europeans. Bad for business I say to the camera which winks back at me unbelievingly. All we want is the opportunity to leave England for good (it’s all right, they’ll edit that bit out) and go and live somewhere warm and peaceful. If the Spanish authorities are hell-bent on making sure that this particular corner of Europe is an unwise choice for retirees, then there’s always Cyprus.
Outside, Britons dressed in fluorescent traffic pyjamas are beginning to gather. They will help direct participants to today’s protest march.
Cantoria is a pretty quiet place. No beach, no hotels, no souvenir shops, no brothels, Macdonalds, gas stations or sky-scrapers. A few bars, Spain being Spain, a supermarket and, down at the foot of the pueblo (at 3,800 people, I don’t know whether it’s a town or a village), there’s a half-hearted marble-cutting factory running with apparently a staff of about two people. The tumbling down plant is located next to a railway station, closed these thirty years.
It was outside this industrial complex that the protesters were meeting. I arrived, trailed by the film crew and a few Spanish journalists, and called the town policeman to come and open a door and find a plug for the P/A system.
Turns out that a journalist I know who works for Ideal de Granada lives just in that square. He came out and grabbed me for a radio interview which went out on Radio Nacional de España.
Bruce Hobday had called the ‘peaceful protest’ and had been at the tender mercies of Becky and company the evening before. He is a local resident of Cantoria and lives in a house which may be demolished at any time. Like many Britons, he had moved there for the many attractions which a quiet and warm place in the sticks can provide (and I’m not kidding – there are many worse places than a peaceful sunny village in Southern Spain). Besides falling like an unnoticed pawn between the authorities of the provincial town halls and the regional government, Bruce and many others like him are keen to stay. ‘We’re not going back to England, come what may’ said one of his fellow protestors. ‘We’ll see it out’. Bruce himself would say in his speech later that morning in front of around 300 protestors that he hoped his next public speech would be to thank the Junta de Andalucía for resolving this issue satisfactorily.
More people arrived. Orange pyjamas from Cantoria and white sports shirts from Albox with AUAN on the chest (Abusos Urbanisticos del Almanzora - ¡No!). A chap I know from the telephone called Katwi introduced himself. Others drifted by in groups, saying ‘hello’ and swapping gossip. The anti-urban abuse AUAN people seemed to know what to do – they had held a protest in Albox a couple of years ago and had just last week been in a meeting with the supreme gauleiter himself, Luís Caparros, an Almerian whose job – apparently – is to lose this province as much foreign income as possible. Caparros is the provincial representative in urban affairs for the Seville based Junta de Andalucía. After announcing that some 5,000 homes in various urbanisations scattered throughout the hinterlands of the province are illegal, he is not a popular man amongst the British.

Whistles and away went the protestors led by the police Landrover. Hardly a Spaniard in sight. Up the hill went the group, waving their polite signs ‘Save Our Homes’ and ‘We’ve Done Nothing Wrong’ and so on. They swerved to the left, down the narrow high street, past the bar (and its competitor across the square) and down as far as the town hall where the protestors stopped and Bruce asked for a minute’s silence for those who could lose their house (and life’s savings!). A few local Spaniards looked on from their terraces. Crazy these British!
The minute was enough for the trailing TV crew, which caught up with the rest of us and followed Bruce into the mayor’s office, me bringing up the rear. Bruce wanted to hand over a petition for water and electricity for the stricken urbanisation, the surprised mayor wanted to put his cigarette out, the film crew wanted a statement and… just as a Mexican standoff was developing… my phone went.
It was the journalist from the Spanish radio I work at, COPE Mojácar. I passed the phone to the mayor, ‘it’s for you’ I said. Relieved perhaps to have someone Spanish to talk to, the mayor was soon gabbling happily over the phone (and, indeed, the radio). ‘There has been enough with the demolition of the house in Vera’ said the mayor to our radio listeners, to Bruce, me and the British cameras ‘and I send a message of tranquillity to the ingleses. This is doing lots of damage to my pueblo, to the Almanzora area, to Andalucía and to Spain’ Got that right, Jack, I thought. The mayor said that he would be in Seville later this month and would be seeking solutions to this ‘aberrant situation’. He was reaching for another cigarette as we traipsed out of his presence.
The protesters outside were ready for the final mile and we were soon congregated by the old train station again. The speeches began. Bruce Hobday spoke for the Cantoria residents. I spoke for Ciudadanos Europeos de Mojácar (our local foreigners-welcome political party).
Helen Prior followed me with her always well-prepared presentations. Helen and her husband Len retired to Spain four year ago. Their house in Vera (with all legal papers) was arbitrarily knocked down in January (see Spanish Shilling for January 2008). So far, it’s been the only demolition in the province, the 22 storey illegal hotel in Carboneras included. The final speech came from Bob Naya from the AUAN and his remarks were very well put. You can find a copy of his speech on the AUAN website but I’ll quote one small piece.
‘Spain has earned itself a well-deserved notoriety for urban planning abuse and corruption. The Almanzora Valley is not an isolated incident. In Andalucía alone there are issues of illegal homes in the Levante region, in Marbella, in the Axarquía (Nerja and so on), in Mijas and in Chiclana to name but a few. This is a crisis which requires a strong and swift solution from our regional government, the Junta de Andalucía’.
Later, over a final beer in the square, the TV crew told me that the show would be broadcast sometime in March which I found a bit of a let-down. Things can change a lot here in six months.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Woman in the Dumpster

A friend from Valencia sends me these pictures. Seems that not everyone there can afford a house.
Turns out that it's a street lady who regularly checks out the action in 'los contenadores'. Poor thing probably sleeps under a bit of cardboard in one of those narrow rooms with an automatic bank teller. Bit ironic really. Or perhaps she sleeps on a bench or in some ruin or squat.
So tell me again about your new Audi. I wasn't really listening before...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pepe Takes The Trufibar

Pepe (Carlos I and El Salmonete) has taken on The Trufibar, the large place on Mojácar beach (opp. the Lopez nuts and bolts shop) popular with the local residents. There was an opening bash last Thursday with live flamenco, dancers, bagpipes (thanks Jim) booze and eats. That's Julio with the pinchitos.
Perhaps I saw you there.
The Trufibar is a special place to go to (like a precious few other places here) because it's a bar for the residents. The tourists never seem to find it. There's a bar on the street with a few outside tables, a larger and smarter bar with tables for dining in the centre part and a large beach-bar terrace with sea-views and plenty of sand. Booze, eat or chill out! Pepe will have Flamenco evenings (he sings, too) and various other live acts, probably Fridays and Saturdays, he says. There's a cheap n' cheerful menu (most plates at 8 euros). Luisa also makes her famous tortillas.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cantoria. Nice and Quiet. Usually.

Cantoria is a small town just six kilometres north from Albox on a rather nasty road which will one day be a motorway. There are some 3,500 residents there, including around six hundred Britons and one Dutchman. The town used to be known for its marble (there's a small factory at the end of the town by the now-defunct railway and station).
It was just a few days after the fiesta of San Cayetano, which, according to the blackened scars on the sides of the town's buildings, has a lot to do with fireworks. 'Well, no one got badly hurt this year', a local man called Manolo told me in the bar, adding with some satisfaction, 'sometimes people lose an eye or even get killed'.
I had come to Cantoria to be shown around by George and Bruce, two members of the Cantoria Residents' Association which has called for a demonstration - a peaceful one, says Bruce - for Thursday September 18th, kick off at 12.00 noon by the aforementioned railway station (decd.). The demo, followed by appropriate speeches from George, Bruce and others, has been called because, like many other places in Southern Spain, the town hall appears to have allowed 'illegal urbanisations' to be built, with the added threat that, in Cantoria, there are 23 homes which have demolition orders on them from the Junta de Andalucía.
George, Bruce and the other householders came to retire in Cantoria with their wives and the essential plan was, after many years of hard career work in the UK, to move to a quiet corner of Spain, put one's feet up and have a glass of tinto as the warm sun sets over the garden fence. The last thing that George, Bruce and so many other retired Northern Europeans expected was that they would have to spend money on lawyers to protect their 'small corners of enchantment'. They never imagined that they could lose their homes, their investments, their savings: almost everything.
The Priors, who gave their home in nearby Vera in January this year to the bulldozers, certainly lost everything. They've been squatting in their own garage since they lost their house and are paying a hundred euros a month for storage of their furniture, which they will continue to do, one supposes, until they receive compensation from either the Junta de Andalucía or their town hall (depending, of course, on who is telling the story) in anything from five to ten years time.
The threatened homeowners in Cantoria know the story of the Priors well enough, but they have had more time to organise (the Priors had just two hours).
The group have put out the bans for their demonstration. The provincial police chief has given his approval and several other British groups from other communities, where similar problems float uneasily under the scorching sun, have joined in. It's going to be a decent show, with well-behaved protestors and no inappropriate placards thank-you. From Albox, the AUAN (300 members) will be there. From the coast, the AULAN (100 members) plus the political group Ciudadanos Europeos. From other towns and areas, nascent associations and clubs will join the march. In Spain, you see - nobody's house is safe.
A march through a quiet high street is not going to have much effect, even when it's the foreigners doing it. However, the scandals of the illegal houses and urbanisations (picture of threatened homes in Cantoria below), the 'land-grabs', the, uhh, 'multiple-owned homes', the 'builders electricity' and the 'off plan homes (with artist's impression)' have all attracted the attention of the international press. Whether the local media shows up (the Spanish like to pretend that these things don't happen) - the foreign cameras and journalists will certainly be there.
One day, the Northern Europeans who come to live in Spain may have an agency that looks out for them: a champion. Until then, there's the media and the threat to the Spanish economy. Never forget (as I pointed out to Manolo), they build houses in Cyprus too.

Monday, September 01, 2008