Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: scams

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Corruption did Granny say, in last-but-one post? Maybe she should continue. She's been reading a local magazine lately which passes on lots of interesting information; some of it sums up exactly the way this island works. Take the garbage problem which she referred to in the same post. She's not quite sure what the scam is here, but one such might explain, partly, the large amounts of trash on an open site, which blows everywhere when the wind blows - often that is. An expensive machine for processing it all has been sitting unused for five years or so, without money being provided to get it going. It is presumably cheaper to employ the glum-looking gangs of almost certainly illegal - or barely legal - immigrants to go around clearing up when the situation becomes impossible.

To give an even better example. People are beginning to worry about overbuilding on this till now relatively empty island - relative to some of the other islands that is. There are fierce zoning systems, which declare various areas as rural, meaning that no building - or only a very limited amount of building - is allowed. This applies to much of the country round where Granny and Beloved live. The local council is supposed to police this, to turn down planning applications etc, to observe illicit building in its area, while the authority responsible for the environment overall watches from afar, or not so far - they check by helicopter often enough. This is the theory; in practice things can be very different. People are always putting up illicit buildings. Very often the local authority turns a blind eye. At the very least it may come along and halt the building work. What it doesn't do is enforce demolition. The building - or buildings - remain half built. Out of her window at this very moment Granny can see the grey hulk of one such, which hasn't changed an iota since she arrived three years and more ago. Having been declared illegal, it cannot be re-started. In theory. If not illegal and it survives four years unchallenged it becomes legal. This having been declared illegal can never become so, just the same, the way things are round here Granny would be more surprised to see it demolished than finished one day in the next few years.

This area it turns out has more ongoing cases against illegal building than any other area in the whole island. Guess why? The brother of the mayor before last is one of the main producers of 'bloques' (breeze-blocks to you; on this island made not simply of concrete but also of volcanic rubble). The mayor himself owned - still owns - the ferreteria - ironmonger - 0n the main street. Does Granny need say more? That's how it works here. A still larger example is the man elected as head of the main island council in the last local elections; convicted then of corruption but not yet sentenced. He is now sitting in gaol, claiming himself as a political prisoner, even one of conscience; a claim not entirely borne out by the fact he is about to be indicted on charges which should see him stay inside for another six years at least. His deputy has also been indicted. Their method of getting votes is handing round television sets; also driving aged voters to the polls, passing them voting slips already marked and showing them the box to put it in.

On the main island a major functionary has just been arrested and imprisoned along with his girlfriend for a major bribery scandal relating to wind farms. This has even made the national Spanish press - the Canary Islands usually considered much too backwoods for them. Bribery, declared El Pais, is - always has been a way of life in Canarian politics. A fact borne out by the nineteenth century traveller Olivia Stone who announced quite mildly following her travels round the islands in the 1880s: 'The post of alcalde - or mayor - is much sought after in these islands. It is an office, though honorary, which usually fattens those who hold it, but in some mysterious way, not much improvement in the town is effected.' Granny can vouch for the lack of the improvements promised in the election manifesto she read before the last election, put out by the man who won the post. Some - like surfacing the roads round where she lives - she is glad have not been implemented. Nonetheless, it proves the point. Even though she is not a positiom to inspect the alcalde's pocket.

A pity the flush of virtue did not come soon enough to prevent the creation of almost entirely unused- and rather bleak - open parks in the centre of most towns and villages; or the umpteen children's playgrounds, ditto. All of them cheaper than the improvements really needed, but used to impress/buy the local populace. Even eldest granddaughter, then aged 7, noticed the oddity of it. 'I've never seen so many playgrounds,' she said in a puzzled voice. 'And none of them with any children playing in them.'

Despite all these sudden flurries of arrests, of virtuous statement, Granny doubts if things will change entirely, any time soon. She can only be grateful for the fact - she is grateful - that on this island the criminal mafia does not run things such as property sales, time-share, etc so thoroughily as it does on some of the bigger islands. But who knows, it may be beginning to.

Granny was going to return to more local, domestic matters here; matters like shelling peas. But it's almost lunchtime. So all she's going to do - in response to requests for pictures - is give you the date of a post which contains some pictures - of landscape, of house, of flowers; with one proviso: that there was much more rain last year, so everything was that much greener; but it's still pretty green, so it will do.

She cannot give you the original posts; she was on a different system - non MAC - when she put them up. But she can direct you to the archive month, and to the dates March 3rd and 19th 2005, to posts titled "Green land by request" and "don't tell me show me". Go here and you will see what you will see...
Good luck.

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