Regional update

Lies and insults in Faro

José Vitorino (left), President of the Câmara Municipal de Faro, has revealed that he has recently received death threats. In a recent statement, he described himself as, “the target of constant campaigns based on lies and insults”, and announced that he will hand out a leaflet to residents in the city confirming that threats have been made against him.

Vitorino pointed out that he has become the victim of “some individuals and groups who think it is necessary to do away with the President of the Câmara. They are calling for a ‘revolution’ and for the support of others. They are poisoning public opinion and blackening the image of the president.”

He believes that a ‘dirty war’ is being waged against him, and has recently made complaints to the Public Ministry, who are now investigating. Vitorino claims that he is determined to find those responsible for the anonymous documents and stated that he was determined to defend his own good name and that of the câmara.

Meanwhile, Vitorino is taking this opportunity to clear up some of the more controversial proposals in his mandate. He will, allegedly, finally speak publicly about his plans for the camping site in Faro, the annual motorbike convention, the ethnic, gypsy population in the city, the Algarve’s new stadium, the service station at Santa Bárbara de Nexe, the building of the Junta de Freguesia da Conceição and his idea for transporting children to and from school.

“I will not turn away from the promises I have made, I will not be intimidated, neither will I give in to blackmail, threats or demonstrations,” he concluded.

Câmaras complain

Local authorities across the western Algarve have criticised the water firm Águas do Algarve for not having an emergency contingency plan, after a supply failure left some areas without water for three days over the Christmas holiday period. The president of Portimão Câmara, Manuel da Luz, has pointed out that the water supply contract, signed by Águas do Algarve, contained a clause obliging the company to have an emergency contingency plan.

“When our supplier has an ongoing problem of this nature, dragging on for some days, we have to say that the service has failed,” he said. The câmara president made it clear he would urge the water company to unveil an emergency plan to deal with potential crises in the future, as he believes that the evidence points to a poor planning on the part of Águas do Algarve.

The breakdown in supply began early in the morning on Christmas Eve in the concelhos of Portimão, Lagos and Vila do Bispo. Apparently, Águas do Algarve informed the local authorities that the problem would be resolved within a few hours and that water reserves would be sufficient in the interim, a prediction which turned out to be false and which did not permit the activation of the old water system.

“The decisions taken were a little late. Only on Thursday night, after interventions by superiors, namely the president of the Águas de Portugal company, were we able to turn on the old connections,” explained Manuel da Luz. The problems were only resolved at dawn, on December 29, after technicians from Empresa Pública de Águas de Lisboa (EPAL) were called in.

The câmara believes that the problems stem from the construction of the Portimão to Via do Infante access route, located above a water channel after the pressure of the new road, combined with the movement of mud, led to a rupture in the underground reservoir. Manuel da Luz claims he raised the question of the site of the new road and had even recommended the construction of a moat to facilitate the repair of the water channel. “This should serve as a salutary lesson to pay more attention to the concerns of the câmara’s technicians,” he said.

Tavira drug haul

Officers from Faro Polícia Judiciária recently arrested a businessman after receiving a tip-off from a local fisherman that the 34-year-old was smuggling hashish on to the Ferreira Neto beach in Tavira. A police spokesman revealed that 200,000 euros and 1,800 kilos of the illegal drug were seized in the operation.

According to the spokesman, the fisherman notified the Maritime Police that he believed that there were illegal drugs being smuggled along the Tavira coastline, convincing officers to search the area immediately. They found the packages nine metres from the shore and immediately alerted the PJ in Faro.

A total of 60 packages, believed to have originated from the North of Africa, were recovered, each weighing 30 kilos. The spokesman went on to describe the investigation as “far from over” and revealed that it is likely that several other people linked to the operation will be arrested shortly.

Hotels take advantage

In a recent meeting between the president of the hotel association (AHP), Luís Alves de Sousa, and the Secretary of State for Youth and Sport, Hermínio Loureiro, it was agreed that Portugal’s hotels could charge an extra 25 per cent on their room rate during the Euro 2004 football tournament. “It is not unusual for hotels and restaurants to ‘up’ the price during events like these. It happens in every industry that attracts tourists,” said Sousa.

Loureiro added that, “hotel prices won’t soar from one minute to another, of course. The prices charged will be practically the same as in peak season.” But according to the president of the Hotel Association of the Algarve (AIHSA), Cabrito Neto, hotel prices in the Algarve will remain the same. “Our association doesn’t agree with upping hotel prices,” Neto said.

Cake madness

A homeless German man in his 40s was arrested after stealing a cake delivery van from outside a local bakery shop in Lagos recently. According to Alberto Costa, owner of Lago-Doce bakery, his worker had parked the vehicle outside the bakery to load cakes for delivery, when a foreigner entered the van “with a big smile on his face” and drove off. Unfortunately for the German criminal, he crashed the vehicle into a wall a few metres ahead of him. “It was raining heavily and he couldn’t make the bend at the speed he was travelling,” Costa explained.

At this point, the criminal decided to reverse and continue his journey on the wrong side of the road, facing oncoming vehicles down the Praça do Infante road. “He caused chaos,” Costa said. The Lagos PSP quickly caught-up with the dangerous driver at the Via do Infante roundabout and the German criminal was arrested.

Apparently, this isn’t the first time the homeless German man has had a run-in with local authorities and he is well known by local police in Lagos. According to one local policeman, days before stealing the cake delivery van, the man was caught in a local supermarket trying to steal food. Local authorities revealed that the foreigner might be sent to Barlavento Hospital’s psychiatric ward for treatment.

In a separate incident, another criminal was arrested and sent for psychiatric assessment after he was arrested in Portimão. The 22-year-old man was initially reported to police as he ran about the city’s commercial streets with what appeared to be a 9mm-calibre gun. “I drove by him and he pointed the gun at my car. I thought it was one of those toy guns because it didn’t look authentic,” eyewitness Filipe Fernandes explained.

As he ran through the streets, the young man entered two local shops demanding money, but left with nothing. Then, according to another eyewitness, the young ‘gunman’ walked past a bakery and seemed to like the look of the cakes. He went in the shop, took some cakes and left without speaking. Shortly afterwards, the Portimão PSP intervened. Several officers grabbed the young criminal and managed to get him to release the gun.

It quickly transpired that the 9mm gun was indeed a toy gun and that the 22-year-old had a long history of mental illness. A police spokesman revealed that the man was initially taken to the Barlavento Hospital psychiatric ward and then to Faro hospital. After a short stay in Faro, he was transferred to a Lisbon-based facility for treatment.

Chiropractic for charity

Dr Helder Prazeres DC held a first annual gift drive at the Centro Quiroprática de Portimão recently. Existing chiropractic patients who brought in a gift for needy children were entitled to a free chiropractic adjustment, along with refreshments and some good old fashion Christmas cheer. “This is my way of giving something back to my patients and to the community in which we live in,” he explained. “Patients help to bring a little bit of joy to needy children, while improving their own health over the holiday season with chiropractic care.” Dr Helder, who has been practicing in Portimão for the last three years, is preparing to open another chiropractic centre in Albufeira this year. In total, over 90 gifts were donated and delivered to the Santa Casa de Misericórdia and the Lar de Crianças Bom Samaritano.

New court for Loulé

The Assistant Secretary of State to the Justice Ministry, Mota de Campos, has visited the site of the offices of the new Administrative and Fiscal Court in Loulé, one of 14 new courts scattered throughout the country. Mota de Campos defended the choice of Loulé as the new location for the court, citing the city’s excellent accessibility, its geographic centrality and the fact that a free building was available near the Palace of Justice. The premises, which used to belong to the Louletano Sporting Club and which will be leased by Loulé Câmara, were refurbished in such a way as to suit the layout of the new court.

Year of action for city

Transport, communications, water supply and education will be the main areas that Loulé Câmara officials will concentrate on this year. And, according to the approved municipal budget, one of the most significant projects set to begin this year will be the construction of a new two kilometre avenida, which will connect Loulé with nearby Goncinha. “2004 is an extremely important year for this office,” said Loulé Câmara leader, Seruca Emídio, as he revealed where he intends to spend his budget. In the field of education, where 3.6 million euros have been earmarked, a key project will be the construction of new schools in S. Sebastião and Quarteira. Emídio conceded that these are urgently required, saying: “I had the idea that the concelho was well served, but the reality is somewhat different.”

In the area of basic sanitation, Emídio admitted that his concelho continues to be one of “great deprivation”, and revealed that the câmara has set aside almost four million euros to remedy the problem. However, work to improve the situation is ongoing and the câmara leader announced that a new drainage system at Quatro Estradas, a construction that should have been completed eight years ago, has now been finished. Other projects currently in progress include improving the drainage system in the zones of Alfarrobeira, Rocha Amarela, Calicos and Estevale S. João da Venda, which represents a total investment cost of 3.2 million euros, and the construction of 20 new council homes in Loulé and another 20 in Quarteira.

São Brás to expand

António Eusébio, president of São Brás de Alportel Câmara, recently announced plans for several new projects in the area. “It has been a difficult year, but we have enough money to start building the essential things our town needs. These include the EN270 road, which will be finished sometime this summer, and the North Circular road, which is set to be open by the end of this year,” the politician guaranteed. The câmara currently has a budget of 12.5 million euros for this year’s construction projects. “We are also hoping to start building a new nursery and primary school,” Eusébio added.