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On Tuesday the deputy mayor of Ibiza Town confirmed the municipality would be revoking the medal of honour awarded by the town to the Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco. During the morning session Santiago Pizarro announced the moves, which will receive all-party support. Coincidentally, the dictator was the first person to be given the prestigious award in 1970, a few years before his death in 1975, and handed over by Abel Matutes who was mayor at the time.
Franco initially enjoyed a notable military career and reached the rank of General, fighting in several key wars Spain were involved in at the time. In February 1936, the left-wing Popular Front won the general election and formed a government. A period of severe instability and disarray followed the election, with escalating violence and distrust between left wing and right wing supporters. After a rise in anti-clerical violence against the Church by leftist militants Franco participated in a state coup against the elected government. The coup failed, and devolved into the Spanish Civil War during which he emerged as the leader of the Nationalists against the Popular Front government. After winning the civil war with some assistance from Benito Mussolini's Italy, and Adolf Hitler's Germany, he dissolved the Spanish Parliament. He then established a right wing authoritarian regime that lasted until 1978, when a new constitution was drafted.
Although he stayed fairly neutral through the Second World War, many years later he struck up a firm friendship with the United States under the Nixon regime, and during the Cold War the two countries enjoyed a strong diplomatic alliance, mainly as a result of Franco's strong anti-Communist policy.
In recent months the Spanish government has been heavily condemned for not providing justice to victims of alleged human rights abuses during the 1936-1939 Civil War and the general dictatorship under General Franco, with president Zapatero claiming Franco’s era should “sink into oblivion”.
Although nothing has ever been confirmed it is believed Franco is responsible for more than 100,000 killings in reprisals during the war and his reign of dictatorship, with tens of thousands of the late dictator's leftist republican opponents remaining buried in mass graves.
Many municipals across the country have undertaken moves to strip Franco of honours bestowed on him during his reign of terror, with street names changed and monuments taken down. Ibiza Town has now joined the list with Pizarro claiming the time is now right.
AROUND THE ISLAND
The Island Council is currently studying the possibility of making the tourist offices on the island, sales points. The councillor for tourist promotion, Pepa Mari, explained they wanted to follow the model which has proved so successful in Barcelona and Tenerife, whereby tourist information offices sell services run by third parties, on a commission basis. The aim is to ensure the offices become self-sufficient, but that there is also money left over for tourist promotion.
Mari explained the possibilities were endless and that the services on offer could be anything from hotel rooms to club tickets. However, there also existed the possibility of creating their own excursions, for instance, guided tours of Dalt Vila, if the chance was there. All of these services could also be offered via the Consell’s website – www.ibiza.travel/es – so visitors were able to book before they arrived.
She finished by claiming the name of Ibiza was a strong one and it needed to be marketed correctly to get the most out of it.
Meanwhile, the promotion of Ibiza began on Monday in Bilbao, as the Tourist Office on the island began its whistle-stop tour across the peninsula to try and promote Ibiza within the Spanish market. The president of the Tourist Department, Jose Tur Olmo, denied the national sector would witness dramatic decreases, and claimed he was more worried about the British market, following a recent visit to Tenerife. He claimed the UK market had fallen around 34 per cent in the Canaries, and with the economic recession, combined with a weak pound, things could prove very tough this summer.
His comments come on the eve of a Balearic promotional campaign which is set to take over Albert Square and Market Street in the centre of Manchester, an area which sees around 150,000 passers-by every day. The event, labelled “Manchester discovers the Balearics”, is set to be the biggest Balearic event to ever take place in the UK, and comes at a crucial time for the islands.
By all accounts Mallorca is coping fairly well in the face of the crisis, although there is slightly more worry over both Ibiza and Menorca. The latter, in particular, is said to be suffering a great deal, with reservations down by 20 per cent at present.
The emphasis at the fair will be on the region’s culture and customs, with the special “correfoc” fire runs, and the Menorca horses the main highlights, as well as an appearance from island resident, Paco Fernandez. The event will cost in the region of €600,000 and involve around 250 people.
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A representative from the Chamber of Architects on the island confirmed his members were receiving a significantly higher number of requests to legalise properties. In 2006 the association handled a total of 87 applications to try and secure licenses for illegally built properties. Last year that number increased to 108, with 36 already having been received during the first three months of this year; all this as the number of petitions to build houses continues to fall.
President Joan Prats explained that while last year they had been receiving a total of one application to build a house every week, levels were now one every three weeks. Meanwhile, requests to legalise properties had increased from one every three months, to two every week. He continued by explaining the sudden increase was due to the fact that many people wanted to sell their property, and therefore needed it legal first. However, he claimed it was a long and drawn out process which often proved unsuccessful.
The different Hotel Federations from across the Balearics held a two hour meeting last week with the vice-president of Central Government, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, during which they asked for various measures to be taken in order to try and kick start the tourist season. The president of the Hotel Federation in Ibiza, Juanjo Riera, explained how they had asked Fernandez for a genuine “Plan Renove”, claiming the current system was merely a transfer of liquidity, and that, although it was very welcome, it would not solve the short term problems on the islands.
The Government offered €400 million to the tourist sector earlier in the year to help renovate their businesses. The interest on the loan was just 1.5 per cent, with the Balearic Government promising to pay half of the interest payments, ensuring businesses were able to borrow money at rates of just 0.75 per cent. Demand was high, and the money soon ran out, although Fernandez has since promised she would be approving a second line of credit to the tune of €600 million in the next few weeks.
However, Riera and his associates called for more direct measures to be taken, including a reduction or annulment in airport tax, for this season at least. Greece has taken similar action, one which has been well received by all of the major airlines. At the moment Spain has the highest level of airport tax of any European nation, thanks in part to the high rises in recent years of the salaries of air-traffic controllers.
A reduction in social security payments was also discussed, with Riera demanding discounts for those establishments opening all year around.
Fernandez listened to all of these suggestions, but failed to agree to anything, claiming more time would be needed to assess how the tourist season progressed. She predicted numbers in 2009 would be similar to those of last year, and that the figures for the Easter break had not been too bad across the country. She spoke of her Government’s complete commitment to the Balearics, while revealing €730 million had already been pumped into the local economy by her administration this year.
The minister also met with representatives of the construction sector, although it appears she came to listen, and most of the answers from all sides will remain, for the time being at least, unanswered.
There were a total of 1,335 accidents in the workplace throughout the Balearics during January, 29.4 per cent less than last year. Of these one proved fatal, with 1,192 taking place in the work environment whilst 143 occurred on the way to, or from, the workplace.
The Island Council has revealed plans to create a trademark, “Locales Saludables”, which will be given to those clubs and bars co-operating in the fight against drugs. The Island Councillor, Patricia Abascal, announced the moves in the company of Alberto Villar, the person in charge of Cepca, the centre for the study and prevention of addictive substances.
Those businesses making a concerted effort in the fight against drugs will be awarded the certification. However, those ensuring the safe use of drugs will also receive recognition. In recent years programmes such as Energy Control, which carries out free pill testing at clubs and parties across the country, have proved popular at many establishments across the country resigned to the fact drugs will be taken, and this proves the best way of controlling their safe consumption.
Abascal is looking to go down a similar route and announced the Consell would be producing a leaflet during the summer giving information about the consequences of taking drugs, and the combinations which needed to be avoided.
The news came as Abascal revealed the number of people looking to kick their drug habit had increased by 12.5 per cent from the previous year. She continued that a total of 835 people addicted to a variety of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, had asked for help from the drug dependency centre run by the Consell. She continued that subsidies to help in this particular fight had just been doubled by the Balearic Government, and the Consell would now have €135,694 at its disposal.
She went on to explain that her department would continue in their fight against all types of drugs, and that establishments banning the consumption of tobacco would also be rewarded, although this was very much an afterthought. Her announcement came as the National Committee for the Prevention of Tobacco Consumption revealed smokers cost the Spanish taxpayer a total of €450 each in sanitary care during 2008, costs which were being paid by non-smokers as well.
The number of residents unemployed during the first three months of the year is at its highest level for more than a decade, with one in five people looking for work. Whilst the figure has levelled out over the last few years, the number of those able to work has risen dramatically, from 33.737 in 2000 to 47,918 this year.
Although a peak of 21.5 per cent was reached in December 2008, levels have remained high over the last three months and, in the Balearics, currently stands at 20.08 per cent, the fourth highest level of any of the autonomous regions, behind the Canaries, Andalusia and Extremadura.
The long term news was not good either, with all of the unions agreeing the number of unemployed was unlikely to fall below 50,000 across the Balearics. The Secretary of the UGT, Manuel Pelarda, was one of those who predicted such gloom, claiming everything would depend on how the season progressed but that it would prove more difficult to get a full six-month contract.
The Balearic Minister for Employment, Joana Barcelo, said the data was extremely worrying, claiming around 22,000 of these were unable to claim benefit. However, she continued by questioning the figures which showed 110,800 out of work in the region, claiming it was more realistically closer to 80,000.
Meanwhile, things were looking no better on a national scale as unemployment surged past the four million mark for the first time in the country’s history. On the 1st April there were a total of 4,010,700 people without work, 17.36 per cent of the population.
The old people’s home being built in San Antonio will finally cost €12.4 million, almost twice the original estimate. The Balearic Minister for Social Care, Fina Santiago, explained the reason for the oversight was simply down to mistakes made in the original calculations, and the over-cautiousness of the technicians.
Work on the project has been delayed for over eighteen months, after €6 million was spent, and the money ran out. However, after over eighteen months of wrangles and bickering it seems the project could get back on track after the Balearic Government announced it was ready to pump in the remaining €6.6 million to finish off the building. The contract will now be put out to tender for a second time, with work set to start by the end of the year.
At the same press conference Santiago claimed they were also trying to resolve the problem at the residency in San Jordi. Work was stopped late last year after cracks appeared in the building during construction. Technicians were called in, who have now decided it is a problem with the land and not the building. She said no decision has yet been taken on fixing the problem, but that it is set to add €450,000 to the original budget of the building which was already €9 million.
On Friday, following a 90 minute meeting with the Balearic President, Francesc Antich, the Interior Minister, Manuel Chaves, admitted that Government subsidies needed to be improved. Although he refused to be drawn on exactly how much would be given in the future, he acknowledged the Balearics needed to be within the middle group of autonomous regions, and certainly not in the bottom group where it currently finds itself.
He admitted the antiquated methods used previously to calculate the financial help offered by Central Government had not favoured the islands, whose population has increased dramatically during the last few years.
The meeting followed a statement from Island President, Xico Tarres, who promised to pay invoices within 30 days in an attempt to try and maintain liquidity amongst companies carrying out work for the island. The promise came after a meeting with representatives from Pimeef, the association of small and medium sized businesses. He also agreed to talk to the Balearic Government to try and ensure the same happened at regional level.
In other related news the Minister for Infrastructure, Jose Blanco, claimed he would be signing the road subsidies on 14th May. The total received by the Balearics will reach €431 million, of which €55.4 million will be sent to Ibiza and €12.9 million to Formentera.
On Friday the Town Hall of Ibiza announced hefty reductions in the cost of using public areas this year. The councillor for the economy, Vicent Ferrer, said he realised this would be a difficult summer for most businesses, and the Town Hall wanted to co-operate in reducing costs, as such they had decided to only charge businesses for using terrace space during the four busiest months of the year, (June-September). In May charges will be reduced by 20 per cent, whilst in April, October and November those restaurants, shops and bars taking up public space with tables, chairs and stands, would be able to do so free of charge.
Ferrer highlighted the importance of still getting permission for using public areas, which was still needed.
The closing date for payments has also been extended from the end of June to 20th July.
The Town Hall of San Antonio confirmed it would do everything in its power to ensure the disused discotheque at the entrance to the town, formerly known as Idea, was never reopened. The open air club, popular during the late 80’s, closed soon after the former Balearic Minister for Tourism, Jaume Cladera, ordered all such buildings to install a roof in order to avoid noise pollution. The former owner, Xavier Cabau, who died last year, began work but was unable to finish for various reasons. It has remained closed ever since.
The councillor for town planning, Josefa Costa, explained the Town Hall remained confident the disco would never be reopened and even hoped it could be pulled down in the near future. She claimed the building was structurally dangerous and called on the current owners to prove its safety within the next month.
The removal of furniture and personal possessions from the Cretu mansion continued through the week, with the Town Hall admitting 90 per cent had already been cleared. Technicians were currently working on transferring water and electricity to the small house at the entrance to the complex which has remained unaffected by the court’s decision. Meanwhile, the machinery necessary to carry out the demolition was being transported from the mainland, and should all be here this week.
Kumharas has had its appeal against the decision to close the bar during two months last summer, rejected. The action was originally taken by the Balearic Government after it claimed the bar had been knowingly allowing drugs to be taken on its premises. The owners appealed against the original decision which was denied, before again turning to the Supreme Court. However, once again their appeal has been denied, which now leaves them no further judicial option and ensures they will also have to pay the fine which accompanied the closure.
The association, Bahia Negocis, has demanded immediate action by the Town Hall to fix the two main roads within the bay of San Antonio. During their last meeting which involved the company responsible for the work, the Town Hall, as well as several key members of the business community, the administration promised both the top and bottom bay roads would be asphalted by the start of the season. However, with just two days to go before the “official” start to the season neither has been done, with work to lay pipes on the top road appearing to be never-ending.
Temporary repairs were made to calle es Caló shortly after the complaints were made, but these have started to appear once again as no further work has been carried out.
The councillor for the interior, Paquita Ribas, officially opened the new police station in San Jordi last week. Although built more than a decade ago by the previous PP-run Town Hall, the building has remained empty. However, Ribas explained that due to a lack of municipal buildings her administration was making a concerted effort to try and utilise all of the space at its disposal.
The station, which is 150 m2 in size and can be found in calle Peix Espasa behind the la Caixa offices in the centre of the town, will be manned 24 hours a day but services will be limited until an extension, (using the medical centre next door), is completed.
Following a meeting with the Island councillor for transport, Albert Prats, in which he further explained his department’s plans for the San Miguel road, a number of landowners affected took part in a separate meeting in Can Caus the following day. The meeting was attended by many members of the PP-party, including the mayors of Santa Eulalia and San Juan, both of whom claim there are alternatives available to the current option chosen by the Consell.
A spokesman for the group revealed they had been given just one month to make official complaints, when the time period is usually two months. He continued that the width of the road was an exaggeration and that if the Consell had chosen to re-vamp the road like the San Rafael-Santa Eulalia road, there would have been little argument. However, he claims the administration has chosen an option which is going to cause unnecessary expropriations.
The Consell of Formentera last week presented a draft to the Balearic Government which it hopes will limit the number of boats able to enter ses Illetes during the summer months, and therefore help protect the surrounding area. The meeting involved the two people responsible for the environment within the two administrations, Silvia Tur and Miquel Angel Grimalt, and represented a step forward in solving the problem most worrying the Consell - control over the number of boats, which can reach 500 during August, anchoring off the popular beach,.
Tur admitted the plans would not be ready until at least 2010, but that the draft represented a willingness to protect the area. She said once the draft had been backed by the Balearic Government, the official plans would be drawn up. Initially the Consell was looking at limiting the number of boats to just 250, with a maximum two day stay, although it had not yet been decided if overnight stopovers would be permitted.
The programme will begin in ses Illetes from sa punta des Trucadors to el Cavall d`en Borras, but could be expanded in the very near future to include Cala Saona and s´Espalmador.
CRIME & INCIDENTS
Two armed men raided a house close to Punta Galera on Wednesday night, police revealed over the weekend. The owners of the property, a husband and wife, were in the house at the time, and although they were not harmed, they were tied up and gagged. Exact details remain sketchy as police are keeping tight-lipped as the investigation continues. What has been revealed is that the pair entered the house on the Punta Galera-Cala Tarida road armed with at least one pistol, tied up the occupants and took everything they could lay their hands on, including jewellery located in a safe.
Three British men were arrested on Wednesday night off the coast of Formentera as officers from the drugs squad boarded their boat containing 3,600 kilos of hashish. Madrid’s representative on the island, Sofia Hernanz, confirmed the details of the arrest, stating no officers from the island had been involved.
The arrests follow an eight month operation which should, according to Hernanz, lead to more detentions in the next few weeks.
The 12-metre vessel had left Morocco on Wednesday evening, and although police are unsure of its destination, they believe it was going to the mainland. As the vessel approached the north of Formentera officers took the decision to board the sailing boat. On board, they found three British crew members and the stash. The boat was taken to the port of Ibiza for several hours, but then taken on to Valencia, along with the arrested men who were taken straight to prison.
One of the men police believe was involved in the Santa Gertrudis bakery robbery two weeks ago has been captured as he entered a supermarket armed with a pistol. Whilst undertaking the robbery at the bakery with his accomplice, witnesses took note of the registration number of the getaway vehicle which eventually proved crucial in locating the men. Having found the pair, one Spanish the other Venezuelan, officers bided their time. However, within days the pair decided to commit one more robbery, unaware they were being monitored. As they entered a supermarket in Puig den Valls officers were not far behind and managed to overcome the armed attacker. It later turned out the pistol he was carrying was an imitation.
However, officers did not have as much luck with the man’s accomplice who was waiting outside in the getaway vehicle. Despite firing shots into the air, they were unable to stop the man, who sped away after realising his partner had been arrested. However, after further investigation he was arrested the following day at a camping site in Santa Eulalia.
Both admitted to a total of three robberies, one in Cala Llonga, as well as the other two. They were sent to prison until a trial could be arranged and further investigations made into other attacks over the last few months. Meanwhile, it was revealed the Venezuelan man had served in the special forces of the Spanish army for five years. He was said to be an expert in martial arts, with officers adding they believed it had not been a drugs related robbery.
The body of the German sailor missing at sea after being knocked off his boat on 29th March has been found. The decomposed body was located by a Mallorcan fishing boat 22 miles from Andratx. The 66-year-old man had been sailing to Ibiza with his son and two friends when all were knocked from the boat by a wave. Whilst the other three, all wearing life-jackets, managed to scramble back on board, the victim, who was not wearing a life-jacket, was swept away in the storm. A two day search failed to recover the body, which has now been discovered after getting caught up in fishing nets.
An autopsy carried out the following day confirmed the man died from drowning.
The Balearic Minister for Finance, Carles Manera, is remaining confident that the region is not going to slip into recession. Whilst the mainland continues to suffer, Manera claimed our reliance on the tourist industry would ensure positive growth during the year. However, things are not quite as rosy as even Manera would like, with the Balearic Government cutting growth figures from its original forecast of 0.8 per cent at the beginning of the year to between 0.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent. This was based on poorer figures than expected from the service sector, and a drop in consumer confidence which the minister said was normal under the circumstances.
By modern day standards Ibiza is an extremely safe place to holiday. This is a weeks worth of news and so its effect is magnified. Please do not fret while you are here - you are quite safe!!
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