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Debate rages in Spain’s Valencia region over introduction of tourist tax

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THE controversy over the introduction of a tourist tax in the region of Valencia rumbles on in the region’s parliament after a debate which lasted almost ten hours on Wednesday.

The introduction of the tax is a divisive issue with left wing parties Compromís and Unidas Podemos supporting the idea.

The governing socialist party (PSPV) agrees broadly, but remains at odds with their coalition partners as to the details.

The PSPV agrees to consider the tax should it be applied in municipalities and on a case by case basis, but they are against a general tax affecting the entire province.

Opposition leaders of the Partido Popular (PP) oppose the plans, and right wing party VOX rejects the idea outright. 

PSPV Vice General Secretary Manolo Mata said that his party would approve the tax for municipalities but not for the entire Valencian community, he warned not to “improvise something that has important consequences”.

Mata said that he has been waiting since 2018 for a “concrete proposal” on the issue of the tourist tax, which is raised every October as budgets are approved for the subsequent year.

Mata says that his party is not in favour of imposing a tax for regional overnight stays, but would support the measure if there are municipalities that want to implement it on a case by case basis.

Deputy Podemos spokesperson Estefanía Blanes said that there are those who “always think that perhaps it is not the moment” for the tourist tax, but admits that the details of the idea are yet to be finalized.

Partido Popular Secretary General María José Catalá has urged the government to focus on other issues, and warns against raising taxes in an already struggling tourism sector. Catalá warns that the sector has suffered “many economic losses and still has workers in ERTE”, and argues that the sector could not cope with new taxes.

Ciudadanos spokesperson Ruth Merino has said that they are against the tax in principle, adding that “enough taxes are already paid elsewhere”.

The debate rages on in Valencia as the region prepares to pass it’s budget in October. 

During the month of September the Valencian Community saw its average hotel occupancy close to 70% in most tourist destinations, with the city of Valencia leading the way with an average of 71.5% occupancy, according to data from the Hosbec hotel association.

The province of Castellón saw 68.6% during the same period, and Benidorm registered an average of 68.4% and the Costa Blanca 67%.

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Benidorm

Costa Blanca marijuana gang packed drugs into sealed tin cans and took them by road from Spain to the UK

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POLICE have smashed a Costa Blanca drugs gang that exported marijuana in tin cans onboard vans and lorries to the United Kingdom.

The Guardia Civil described the gang as one of Spain’s ‘leading’ criminal producers of marijuana.

Specialist equipment was used to process the drug which was then put into sealed tin cans ahead of their UK journey.

The Guardia operation was carried out with help from police forces across Europe and the UK’s National Crime Agency.

€74,000 in cash was seized in house raids along with marijuana plants and associated drug materials.

May be an image of money and indoor

The probe produced 16 arrests in Benidorm, Gandia, San Juan de Alicante and Torrevieja.

Three of the detainees were jailed after a court appearance.

Operation ‘Derlius’ was launched in December 2020.

The Guardia got suspicious about several Lithuanians living in San Juan who appeared to be well-off, yet did not appear to work.

Some of them had a criminal record.

Last March, some of the group were arrested on the Spanish-French border in a van containing 277 kilos of hashish and 10 kilos of cocaine.

No photo description available.

The gang leaders were a married couple who have lived in Torrevieja since 2018.

They organised a network of ‘safe houses’ used as marijuana farms and packaging points.

The farms in San Juan were ‘managed’ by two associates of the couple.

Besides exporting to the UK, the gang sold the marijuana to local cannabis clubs.

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

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Benidorm

British tourists ‘blamed’ for high COVID-19 rate in Benidorm area of Spain’s Costa Blanca

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RISING British visitor numbers in the Benidorm area could be causing a big spike in local COVID-19 cases according to some Spanish media reports.

The Marina Baja health area, that includes the popular Costa Blanca resort, is now registering 215 COVID cases per 100,000 people.

That’s over five times the national average and the largest figure in the Valencian Community.

Over the last nine days it has gone up from being three times higher than the national average.

There are no statistics to show what is behind the rise.

At one stage last week, UK visitors accounted for 22.23% of hotel occupancy in Benidorm as part of an occupancy total of 73%.

It was five times higher than the next largest group of foreign arrivals from Belgium.

Spanish media is suggesting that since daily UK COVID cases are running at over 50,000 infections compared to Spain’s average of 2,500, then the Benidorm spike is down to British arrivals.

No official data has been provided to prove or disprove that theory.

Another media suggestion is because mandatory mask wearing is not imposed in the UK, then arriving Brits are lax about following Spanish rules, especially indoors.

The reports seem to ignore that mask rules are pretty much the same in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as in Spain.

There’s also no evidence to show that British tourists are flouting mask mandates in significant numbers, if at all, on the Costa Blanca.

Image Credit: Cordon Press

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Bernabe Cano

Costa Blanca mayors get court summons over COVID-19 vaccine queue-jumping incident in Spain

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A Denia judge has summoned the mayors of El Verger and Els Poblets, Ximo Coll and Carolina Vives, to give evidence over COVID-19 vaccine queue-jumping in January.

The married Costa Blanca mayoral couple got their first shots of the vaccine on January 8 in breach of age and priority rules.

The transgression was prompted by Coll getting a phone call with news of unused doses at the El Verger health centre.

He was told the vials would go to waste if they were not used.

Coll and his wife then went to the centre along with some police officers to take advantage of an unexpected early inoculation.

Alicante’s anti-corruption prosecutor sent a file to the Denia court in July.

It accused the couple of an ‘abuse of power’ and committing a crime of improper passive bribery.

The Denia judge subsequently opened a preliminary investigation to see if the couple have a case to answer at a possible trial.

The two mayors have now been summonsed to give their side of the story on November 12.

Coll and Vives were both suspended from the regional socialist party(PSPV) in February.

They also survived ‘no confidence’ votes to remove them from their mayoral positions on their two councils.

A Villajoyosa judge ruled this month that there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial against La Nucia’s Partido Popular mayor, Bernabe Cano.

He also got an early vaccination shot in January and has been charged with bribery and prevarication.

Cano said this week that he was launching an appeal against the judge’s decision to proceed with the case.

READ MORE: LA NUCIA MAYOR TO GO ON TRIAL FOR BRIBERY OVER VACCINE QUEUE-JUMPING

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