Category Archives: Ronda News

Ronda Town Hall is Bankrupt (Fernandez)

The new mayor of Ronda, Maripaz Fernandez, and the deputy mayor Isabel Barriga have exposed damning evidence that the city of Ronda is technically insolvent, has huge public debts of 30 million euros, and will not be able to pay salaries in June.

Speaking to the press, Fernandez and Barriga promised further revelations, and the possibility of denouncing in the Court of Auditors (Tribunal de Cuentas) former mayor Antonio Marin Lara and deputy mayor Francisco Cañestro, both of PSOE, for gross economic mismanagement of public funds, a charge that carries fines, restitution, banning from public office, and other penalties if convicted.

Citing specific examples, Fernandez stated that the municipal treasury has no money and may struggle to pay the salaries and wages of municipal employees in the current month (June 2011), and worse, owes 575,000 euros in unpaid social security payments for municipal employees.

Over 10.5 million euros of outstanding invoices, some dating back as much as 3 years are unpaid to local business operators of all sizes, including cleaning companies, sport operators, construction firms, architects, restaurants and bars, and printing companies. The single largest debt is owed to Soliarsa, the company that keeps Ronda’s streets and parks clean, a figure that exceeds 700,000 euros.

In the current crisis, firms that supply materials for projects being undertaken within Ronda are refusing to supply due to mounting unpaid debts from the city hall. One notable example is the allegation the new youth hostel in Ronda which cost nearly 800,000 euros to build, is essentially complete, yet is still not open for business due to payments being in arrears to suppliers and contractors.

Marin Lara Out, Fernandez In – Mayoral Inauguration

After a bitterly fought local election between PSOE under the leadership of Antonio Marin Lara, PP under Mari-Paz Fernandez, and third choice PA under Isabel Barriga, today witnessed the official swearing in of Ms Fernandez as Ronda’s next mayor, and the unveiling of her team, including the PA’s Barriga as deputy mayor.

The Santo Domingo convent was the setting for the inauguration, which began with all list representatives from the parties being called to the stage, followed by a secret ballot of all councillors for the role of mayor. Fernandez attracted 12 votes reinforcing her control of the 7 PP councillors, and the strength of the pact with PA for their 5 votes.

Antonio Marin Lara, current leader of PSOE in Ronda however only attracted 6 votes out of the 7 he should have received. Several PSOE militants speculated to Ronda Today that Francisco Cañestro might have been the rogue vote to demonstrate his independence as he takes on a role as representative from Ronda in the diputacion de Malaga, whilst others were unsure and recalled that Marin Lara has recently become embroiled in allegations of an extra-marital affair with a younger blonde woman and that wondered if his own wife voted against him.

This was an election overshadowed by allegations of poor governance by the incumbent PSOE both locally and at national level, the emergence of a people’s protest movement ‘Los Indignados’, and the rebirth of the Partido Andalucista in Andalucia, though it is impossible to say if the protests had much impact on the outcome of the election as polls prior had projected a PP win.

PA failed to reach their potential in the region, though in Ronda the party polled an acceptable 5 seats from 21, giving them kingmaker status as PSOE and PP each captured 7 seats and vied for PA support in a coalition, and resulting in today’s inauguration of Fernandez after protracted negotiations between the parties eventually producing a pact allowing PP to rule with minor concessions to PA.

During the swearing in ceremony and first extraordinary plenum of the new council, a packed hall in the Santa Domingo Convent witnessed all party leaders speaking of their goals, and surprisingly Izquierda Unida’s representative received the loudest applause when promising to campaign for basic necessities such as free wifi Internet throughout the city and food on the tables of destitute families.

PSOE’s Marin Lara was worst affected by the crowd with a large section booing his speech and calling ‘fuera’ and ‘burro’ which left Marin Lara flustered at first with obvious signs of being close to tears, and then as he warmed up more belligerent whilst accusing his political rivals of being accessories to allegations brought against him. Francisco Cañestro, deputy leader of PSOE and several former PSOE councillors appeared uncomfortable at Marin Lara’s outburst.

Both Fernandez and Barriga have distanced themselves from dirty politics promising to sweep away many of the negative perceptions about Ronda, and with both being first time entrants into senior political office at the local level will enjoy a honeymoon period to prove their credentials.

The inauguration ended to loud applause as Fernandez took the podium, setting out her goals for the next four years including her promise to start a thorough audit of council finances and move forward with the PP proposed motorway linking Ronda and Antequera, the intention to get Ronda’s defunct urban plan approved, and her commitment to ensuring Ronda successfully wins UNESCO World Heritage status.

She reiterated comments made by PA and other PP councillors in calling for a fairer more just society, and called on Rondeños of all nationalities to describe themselves as ‘de Ronda’.

Youth Protests in Ronda

Entering Plaza del Socorro in Ronda many would be forgiven for wondering if they’d walked into a hippy convention with the central rotunda taken over by tents, hand written banners, and people milling around disturbing the general peace of the square.

Known as los indignados, groups have formed throughout Spain with one basic message upon which they all agree even through they appear to come from all sides of the political spectrum. Specifically, their manifesto calls for the end of a political system that encourages accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, and is instead replaced by a system where politicians think first of the welfare of society.

The uprisings in the Arab world, and a shared youth unemployment rate, currently estimated as 45% in Spain, has been the impetus for young people to take to the streets in their thousands, and camp out in main sqaures or in front of government buildings.

Ronda’s Plaza del Socorro is no different, with scores of people regularly chanting slogans and calling on townsfolk to sign their petitions demanding an end to corruption and reform of the political system, specifically to ensure Spain’s democratic future is more representative of the will of the people.

Speaking to Ana, a representative of the group in Ronda, this writer discerned an element of revolutionery fervor gripping the core group of sit-in regulars. However the petition just one week after being opened to signatures has already attracted over 1500 signatories in Ronda, this from an official population in the city of 38,000 residents, suggesting the wider community may in fact be sympathetic to their aims.

Strength of feeling against corruption that affects every family does not seem to be isolated to the young, indeed many who have signed the petition remember Spain’s first steps to democracy after the death of General Franco, and expressed disillusionment to Ronda Today that the dream of a better Spain has in some ways not materialised.

The recent local government elections in Spain certainly overturned the status quo, with Ronda returning to the Partido Popular (PP) albeit in a power sharing agreement with the Partido Andalucista (PA), though with the city’s finances in a poor state the change is unlikely to bring major reforms.

A small sample of younger people in Ronda that were spoken to by Ronda Today, both employed and unemployed, seemed in general to mirror the disillusionment of the protesters in Plaza del Socorro and with a national general election thought to be likely before the end of the year, it doesn’t seem the protesters are in a mood to go home yet.

British sport car manufacturer Aston Martin launches their 2011 lineup in Ronda

Aston Martin, the prestigious UK-based sport car manufacturer today presented their 2011 range of vehicles to over 300 international motoring journalists, most of whom also had the chance to test drive the models at Ronda’s Ascari Race Resort.

News of the event first filtered through when company representatives approached Ascari and the Ronda town hall in early November 2010 for a special request to host meetings of the journalists in the Casa del Gigante (House of the Giant). Pepa Becerra, councillor for culture in Ronda told Ronda Today she didn’t have to think very hard in approving the request given the power of the brand after the most recent James Bond film featured Aston Martin as the Bond car.

Ronda narrowly beat Sevilla for rights to host the launch, mainly due to the tranquil setting of the Plaza Duquesa de Parcent which is now a no parking zone and offers wonderful photo oppotunities for the vehicles in front of the historic town hall, the Santa Maria church, and next to the trees of the plaza.

At least six models including a convertible were on display for visiting journalists, however race day was a private event with no opportunity for Rondeños to see the cars. Today’s events in Plaza Duquesa de Parcent had been eagerly anticipated and drew in several hundred tourists and motoring enthusiasts to get their photos taken with the vehicles.

Mari Paz Fernandez and Partido Popular Would Cancel Some Public Media in Ronda

Speaking today about the excessive media ownership of the town hall, which she described as nothing more than a mouthpiece for Ronda’s mayor and PSOE, Mari Paz Fernandez declared she would eliminate two of the three public news media inthe city if her party is elected in the Mary municipal elections.

Over the last several years the town hall under Antonio Marin Lara and his government have built up Radio Ronda, Ronda Television, and Ronda Actualidad as the voice of the PSOE party, and given the reach of the free tabloid sized paper, Ronda Actualidad, Ms Fernandez was especially critical of the excessive media representation of PSOE at the expense of other parties in the city.

The costs of maintaining these news media is said by Fernandez to be more than 500,000 euros per year, money she would like to almost totally reallocate to subsidised housing for families in distress. Calling for the closure of Ronda Actualidad and Ronda Television, Fernandez stated she might be willing to see the continuance of Radio Ronda, but with a substantially changed format, and relaxation of political control.

In the past various people within Ronda, including representatives of the Partido Popular and the Partido Andalucista have described PSOE appointments to the three media in Ronda as unfair, and allegedly undemocratic. The existence of three municipal media that operate in direct competition to privately owned independent media worries Fernandez who has in the past stated that the Partido Popular is not given equal coverage by the PSOE appointed management of the municipal media.