2017: a rollercoaster year

Pablo Ráez encouraged more bone marrow donors to come forward. :: sur
Pablo Ráez encouraged more bone marrow donors to come forward. :: sur
  • We take a look back at some of the major events that shaped the past twelve months



Animal shelter boss sentenced in cruelty case

The former president of the Torremolinos animal shelter Parque Animal, Carmen Marín, was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison for cruelty to animals, falsification of documents and unqualified practice. The trial revealed how hundreds of dogs and cats had been sacrificed using moneysaving methods that caused slow and painful deaths. The sentence sparked calls for harsher penalties in animal cases as only 12 months of Marín's sentence were for cruelty, the maximum permitted by law.

Carmen Marín.

Carmen Marín. / SUR


New hospital opens as snow hits inland

Residents in Ronda and its surrounding towns and villages finally saw the opening of a new district hospital, 20 years after plans were first announced. The outpatient services began to function in a week when the area was hit by the first cold snap of the year. Two days after the opening, road access to Ronda was cut off due to the first snowfall of the year.


New SUR in English web site goes live

SUR in English took a step forward in January 2017 with the launch of the newspaper's updated web site. While has existed since 1996, this year the web site underwent a major facelift thanks with the help of the state-of-the-art technology of the Vocento group and the team of developers at SUR. The site introduced new sections and multimedia features, without losing its popular classified ads section and the print edition of the paper in PDF format.


VIPs in Malaga

King Felipe and President Hollande come to town

February was a month that saw Malaga getting the flags out for heads of state. Spain's own King Felipe visited the city to open the 6th Transfiere conference highlighting the city's position as a benchmark in Spain for technological innovation, development and research.

Later in February the Marseillaise was rehearsed for the visit of then French president François Hollande, who was in Malaga for the Spain-France summit. While talks focused on Europe the president had the chance to visit some of the city's cultural attractions.


King's sister acquitted in fraud case

There was some relief for the Spanish royals when the Infanta Cristina, King Felipe's younger sister was acquitted of charges against her in the Nóos fraud and corruption case.

The Infanta with her husband.

The Infanta with her husband. / EFE

The court found no evidence to prove that Cristina had played a role in the fraud committed by her husband through a firm the couple both owned, among other businesses. Her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, was found guilty and sentenced to six years and three months in the case that involved public funds being channelled into private hands through a non-profit organisation. The couple are still living in Switzerland while his appeal goes through.


Pablo Ráez dies

The young Marbella leukaemia sufferer whose campaign for bone marrow donors was followed by thousands on social media died in February 2017. Pablo Ráez, who was only 20, shared his fight against the illness with his followers to encourage more donors to come forward. He will be remembered for his trademark pose with fists clenched and his slogan, “siempre fuerte” - “always strong”.


SUR holds first international forum in London

Representatives of SUR were joined by Malaga's city hall, university and Unicaja bank in London to organise an international event aimed at promoting Malaga and the Costa del Sol as a located for international business. The event was attended by around a hundred business leaders from City-based firms who were shown why this area is acting as a magnet for British and international companies wanting to relocate or open branches in southern Europe.


Local politics

Taped conversations reveal alleged job offer in exchange for council vote in Mijas

The content of taped conversations published by SUR in March apparently revealed how the Mijas branch of the Partido Popular, led by former mayor Ángel Nozal, offered a councillor a job in exchange for supporting a vote of no confidence in the town's Ciudadanos mayor, Juan Carlos Maldonado. The recordings were made by the councillor for the Podemos-linked group CSSP, Francisco Martínez, while he was driven by former councillor Santiago Martín to a meeting with Nozal. Martín resigned after the scandal broke, but Nozal remains as leader of the PP opposition. Martín and Nozal have both since been called for questioning by the judge investigating whether any criminal offences were committed.


Expats watch on as Britain triggers article 50 and talks get under way

British residents in Spain and around Europe watched on concerned after Theresa May triggered Article 50 marking the official start of the UK's exit from the EU. The message from campaigners in Spain, many of whom went to the Unite for Europe march in London while others protested in Madrid, was that Brits in the EU, just as EU citizens in the UK, must not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations.


Antonio Banderas collects honorary 'biznaga'

The international career of Malaga-born actor Antonio Banderas was honoured in his home city at the end of this year's Malaga Film Festival. The actor collected his honorary 'biznaga' at the closing ceremony of the festival, the main section of which was won by the film Verano 1993.

Antonio Bandres at the Malaga Film Festival.

Antonio Bandres at the Malaga Film Festival. / EP / SUR



No train for Marbella

Despite previous promises, plans to extend the suburban railway line to Marbella were put on hold once again, despite assurances by former Minister for Public Works, Ana Pastor, that priority would be given to the project. The funding for Malaga in the 2017 State Budget was the lowest received so far this century, approximately 40 per cent lower than last year. The government allocated just 350, 000 euros for the new coastal railway line, barely enough to pay for the studies needed to carry out the project.


Town hall takes over Marbella bullring

Marbella town hall began negotiations with the concession holders of the central bullring, to end their contract and take over the direct running of the arena. Few important fights had been held there in recent years and in August 2015 anti-bullfighting protesters invaded the arena during a fight causing confrontations between fans and opponents. Following a drop in interest in the corrida in Marbella, the council declared that the bullring would be used for concerts and other cultural events, but not for bull fighting. Former mayor, José Bernal, denied the council was banning the tradition at the behest of his coalition, claiming that the bullring in Puerto Banús could be used for fights.


Freud and Bacon meet Picasso

An exhibition titled 'Bacon, Freud and the School of London' arrived at the Picasso museum in Malaga, thanks to a new alliance with the Tate gallery in London. Ninety paintings by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, R B Kitaj and Leon Kossoff, reflected one of the most vibrant chapters in the history of western art in the past century. The works covered eight decades and the exhibition marked an important step forward in the Picasso museum's international presence.


Gender harassment

Persecuted couple arrive at Malaga airport

An epic journey across three countries, fleeing discrimination for their sexual orientation, came to a happy conclusion for 28 year old Maria Jimena Rico and her partner, Shaza Ismail. Their plight hit the headlines in April when Shaza's father had tricked the couple into travelling to Dubai, claiming that her mother was ill. However, he had reported their relationship to the authorities and fearing for their lives, the couple fled to Georgia. They were about to catch a flight back to London when Shaza's father intercepted them at Tiflis airport, threatening to kill the two girls. He was arrested and the couple was escorted to the Turkish border, where they were detained and eventually deported. They arrived back in Torrox, where Maria has lived since 2001, and immediately began planning their wedding.

Unexpected visitor

Floating platform runs aground in Benalmádena

Residents in Benalmádena were greeted with an unusual sight after extreme weather caused a floating industrial platform to wash up close to the town's nudist beach. The platform was being towed from Cartegena to Cadiz when rough seas and high winds saw the cables used for towing the structure break. Despite a number of boats being scrambled to assist, none were able to steer the platform away, instead controlling its movements until it finally washed up off the coast in Benalmádena.


Banderas pulls out of city arts project

Hollywood actor, Antonio Banderas, abandoned his proposed plans to turn the old Astoria cinema building into a performing arts centre. The project received criticism and Banderas became the target of insults and humiliation on social media, leading him to pull out of the project, much to the dismay of the people of Malaga. The actor wrote a public letter in the SUR withdrawing his involvement in the project after opposition councillors had unsuccessfully tried to get the competition he had won for the scheme cancelled, amid claims of irregularities and fraud.


Terrorist attack

British investigators criticised

British authorities faced mounting criticism for the delay confirming the death of Ignacio Echeverría, a 39-year-old Spaniard killed in the London Bridge terror attack. There was disbelief as to why it took three days for British police to confirm his death to his family, and increasing calls for the identification process to be sped up caused a small diplomatic crisis between the two countries. Ignacio, who worked at the HSBC bank in London, was hailed a hero after he used his skateboard to try to save a woman who was being attacked by one of the terrorists. Spanish foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, claimed that the treatment of the family was “bordering on inhuman', after British investigators claimed they had finger print proof but were waiting for DNA results.

Leisure and entertainment

New Intu complex planned for Torremolinos

Torremolinos town hall announced plans for a new Intu shopping and entertainment complex that is to be built on the outskirts of Torremolinos.


Clampdown on antisocial behaviour

Councillors in Marbella showed their concern about the resort's image and reputation being damaged by drunken foreign tourists. The local authority decided to clamp down on disreputable tourists who disrespect other visitors using the destination, saying that “the situation will not be tolerated”.

New regulations to control antisocial behaviour included a ban on people walking shirtless or drinking alcohol in the streets. Fines of up to 3,000 euros were introduced for those who did not comply. The police presence was also reinforced in Puerta Banús, however the town hall stressed that the initiative also needed the cooperation of local business owners.



King Felipe and Queen Letizia on state visit to UK

A three-day State visit of King Felipe and Queen Letizia to London captivated attention across both Spain and Britain in July. The focus was very much on economic links between the two countries and the possible affects of Brexit. Speaking at a breakfast meeting entitled 'UK Spain- Business Forum' King Felipe said that Spain and Britain had to work together to reduce any negative effects of Brexit. A statement from Downing Street said that “there are over 300,000 Britons living in Spain, while over 130,000 Spaniards have made the UK their home”, adding that the prime minister would highlight “the valuable contribution that Spanish citizens make to Britain's economy and society.” The State Visit of King Felipe and Queen Letizia was their first official visit to the UK and the first Spanish State visit since 1986, when the king's father and mother, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Letizia, Queen Elizabeth II and Felipe VI.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Letizia, Queen Elizabeth II and Felipe VI. / Matt Dunham / AFP


Corruption scandal hits Spanish football association

Spanish football's governing body, the RFEF, was rocked by scandal in July after its president Ángel María Villar, his son Gorka, and two regional officials were arrested as part of 'Operación Soule', an investigation into a funding black hole of at least 45 million euros. Villar was accused of asset-stripping for the financial gain of himself and his son, as well as offering favours and incentives to officials for their support.


The Prodigy headline Weekend Beach festival

British band, The Prodigy, headlined Friday night at the fourth Weekend Beach festival in Torre del Mar. Around 30,000 people listened to the group, which is fronted by Keith Flint. They burst onto the stage with the famous 'Firestarter', before alternating newer tracks with 90s classics such as 'Smack my Bitch Up' and 'Breathe'. The Prodigy are the most famous international act to have performed at the festival to date.



Terror attacks in Barcelona

Spain and the international community were rocked by a terrorist attack on Barcelona's Las Ramblas, which left 15 dead and over 100 people injured. Days later, a car ploughed along the sea front in the town of Cambrils. All five suspects were shot dead by police at the scene. One woman was killed and a further six people were injured in the incident. Thousands of people, headed by King Felipe, came together to express their grief following the terror attacks. The demonstration in the Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona was also attended by Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy who stood alongside the then president of the Catalonian government, Carles Puigdemont. Similar gatherings took throughout Spain. A minute's silence was held outside town halls along the Costa del Sol. Thousands also turned out later on in the month for a march against terrorism in the city.

March against terrorism in Barcelona.

March against terrorism in Barcelona. / Pau Barrena / AFP


Starlite threatens to quit Marbella over opening hours

The organisers of Marbella's Starlite live music festival threatened to move somewhere else next year as relations with the local town hall had deteriorated in the months leading up to the festival.

Staff, fearful for their jobs, protested against the council's enforcement of legal opening hours.

The move came amid increasing tension between event organisers and Marbella council over closing times after concerts and uncertainty over operating licences. The dispute centred disagreement over whether the event should be legally defined as a festival, and so entitled to special privileges in how long it stay open each night, or a normal nightspot which has to adhere to stricter rules. The 45-night event, which was originally branded as Starlite Marbella but is now advertised as Starlite Festival started on the Costa del Sol 2012. This year it featured many major international stars, including Elton John, Luis Fonsi, Art Garfunkel and Andrea Bocelli.


Britons caught shining lasers at aeroplanes

Two Britons were caught after threatening the safety of aeroplanes coming into land at Malaga airport by shining high-powered laser pens into the eyes of the pilots. The alarm was raised when several pilots of passenger aircraft that were coming into land from over the sea at around 11pm reported being distracted by the illegal pointing of lasers into their aircraft. Air traffic controllers, seeing the risk of a plane being brought down, immediately called police and sent out a message over their Twitter account in an attempt to find the culprit. One pilot, who knew the area, said that they appeared to be coming from the direction of hotels in nearby Torremolinos.



Spanish PM meets Donald Trump at White House

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy paid a flying visit to Washington DC this week to meet with US president Donald Trump at The White House. During the first official meeting between the two the leaders took questions from the press. Asked for his view on the planned banned Catalonian referendum, Trump said that Spain was “a historic country” that should stay united.

Rajoy and Trump at the White House.

Rajoy and Trump at the White House. / EFE


Guardia Civil seize voting slips ahead of referendum

Spanish authorities took steps to stop the banned independence referendum being planned by the Catalonian regional government for 1 October. Following court orders, Guardia Civil officers seized 10 million voting slips and arrested several regional government chiefs and business people. The interventions sparked an immediate wave of demonstrations across Barcelona and fourteen officials and business owners were arrested over organisation of independence referendum. Some were later released after questioning and many appealed their arrest. Protesters in favour of the banned vote on independence gathered outside the buildings being searched. The Guardia Civil continued their search of the regional economy ministry through the night, with demonstrators barring their exit the following morning. Some of the police vehicles parked outside were heavily damaged by vandalism.


Malaya case fugitive arrested in Argentina

More than a decade after the Malaya corruption scandal broke out in Marbella, the last fugitive, Carlos Fernández was located and arrested in Argentina. The former councillor was detained at his home in Rivadavia, a small town in the province of San Juan, near the Chilean border. Fernández, who had been a Marbella councillor for the GIL group before switching to the Andalusian party PA, had married and formed a family in Argentina. The arrest came after Fernández's defence lawyers had written to the Spanish courts asking them to declare that the statute of limitations for the offences he was wanted for in 2006, including embezzlement and accepting bribes, had expired. In other words, they believe that legally enough time has gone by since the initial investigation for him to return to Spain without having to go to prison.


Independence Referendum

Conflict as Catalonia votes

Catalonia held its referendum on independence from Spain on Sunday October 1st, a day marked by conflict and violence as Spanish police used physical force in some cases to prevent people going into the polling stations to vote. The referendum was illegal under the Spanish Constitution, but the regional government announced afterwards that turnout had been 43 per cent and of the two million Catalans who voted, 90 per cent had backed independence and the move would go ahead. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy called for calm, saying that the country was not going to give in to “blackmail by a few people.” He later annulled the Catalonian government, took control of the region and announced that new elections would take place on December 21st. Several politicians were jailed for sedition, and the president of the former regional government, Carlos Puigdemont, went into self-imposed exile in Brussels.


Thousands left stranded after airline goes bust

Britain's fifth largest airline, Monarch, ceased trading and went into administration on Monday 2 October, leaving as many as 110,000 tourists left stranded abroad. The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) immediately announced an operation put into place by the UK government to repatriate the affected tourists, several thousands of whom were on the Costa del Sol. The British government described the operation as the “biggest ever peacetime repatriation.”

Monarch Airlines goes bust.

Monarch Airlines goes bust. / EFE

Domestic violence

An increase of 31.6% in Malaga province

In the second quarter of this year, 2,084 reports of domestic violence were presented to courts in Malaga province, which was an increase of 31.6 per cent compared with the same period last year. According to the figures, 2,079 of the reported victims of domestic violence during that time were women, which was an increase of 57 per cent; in the second quarter of 2016 there were 1,321 female victims. “These figures are shocking,” said the public prosecutor for domestic violence in Andalucía, Flor de Torres, who attributed the rise in the number of reports to greater awareness and more determination not to tolerate chauvinist behaviour. She also pointed out that many cases go unreported, so the real figure must be much higher.



Building starts again

Experts predicted that 2017 would be a record year for new construction on the Costa del Sol, following the economic crisis. In Malaga, the council announced that it had approved projects worth around 500 million euros, and in Mijas there was over 40 per cent more investment in construction than in 2016.


Warnings of water saving measures

After four dry years and lower than average rainfall, the situation was deemed serious enough for the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Susana Díaz, to announce that measures to save water would be introduced if the situation did not improve. She also called on the central government to carry out projects which have been outstanding for some time and never completed, such as the pipeline from the Iznájar reservoir in Cordoba to the northern Antequera area.


Merger of property giants

Mega-shopping centre still set to go ahead

British company Hammerson, which owns major shopping and retail centres in the UK such as The Bullring in Birmingham, Brent Cross (London) and Highcross (Leicester) announced that it was to acquire the Intu group, one of its biggest competitors, to create a giant property business worth billions of pounds. The new group will continue with plans to build the biggest shopping and leisure centre on the Mediterranean, north of the Palacio de Congresos in Torremolinos.

Prestigious award

Best luxury hotel in Spain

The Vincci Selección Aleysa Boutique & Spa in Benalmádena was named the best luxury hotel in Spain in the Trivago Awards. The hotel, which has 35 rooms and around 60 employees, was praised by clients for the “warmth” of the staff and the “quality” of the services. The mayor of Benalmádena, Víctor Navas, described the hotel as a national benchmark in its field.

Election in Catalonia

Independence problem isn't going away

In a blow to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, independence parties did well in the regional government elections on 21 December. No party gained an absolute majority, but between them the independence supporters have enough seats to govern.