Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wild Boar, a menace moving south

Wild boar, a somewhat dangerous species within the Algarve’s rich biodiversity, is making more of a nuisance of itself closer to the coast this year because of inland wildfires.
Families of wild boar have been reported enjoying themselves on popular beaches, including Quarteira, Albandeira and Nossa Senhora da Rocha. Mercifully, they stay hidden during the day, only appearing at dusk and dawn, and so do not interfere with human sunbathers.
They are not often seen on golf courses either but their nocturnal presence has been apparent on some, such as Gramacho near Carvoeiro and Parque da Floresta west of Lagos. Morgado near Portimão suffered badly before it was fenced.
The attraction of golf courses in spring and summer is that they are well irrigated, making scratching for food easier.
As omnivores, the boar eat acorns, nuts, seeds, fruit, creepy-crawlies, mice, small reptiles and much besides. They dive into wheelie bins in search of lunch and dinner scraps.
In many places such as Odeaxere near Lagos they destroy farm crops. In the Odelouca Valley near Silves they have been turfing up young Quercus canariensis, a special and rare native tree, being cultivated by environmentalist Antonio Lambe. In the process the boars have damaged parts of the irrigation system.
Hunters and their dogs go after wild boar in what is known in Portuguese as a montado. Usually on a Saturday in the autumn a man in a red scarf near Messines would conduct the hunt blowing a horn. The dogs, specially bred for this type of hunting, would leap on the boar before the hunters get there.
 “Those tusks are unforgiving. It's pretty gruesome,” says John Greenhill who has watched from an opposite hillside.  
“After the kill, the boar is transported on a pole to the hunting club lodge to be butchered. A lot of drink is taken, mainly the hard stuff, bagaço or medronho.
“I have a neighbour whom I have never met who used to put a wire noose on the boar path, always on a steep part so the boar would run headfirst into it and strangle itself slowly. I know this because I have cut two dogs out of the trap.
“I used to go regularly and destroy the nooses, so eventually whoever it was gave up.”
The presence of more wild boar closer to the coast this year is thought to have been forced by the extensive wildfires in their favourite habitat in the hills and foothills of the Algarve.
Early risers may now spot wild boar in the countryside anywhere from Aljezur in the far west to the Guadiana River in the fareast.
This year, for the first time in decades of living in a small wood just north of the N125 at Porches, Ian Fitzpatrick of the Olaria Pequena has twice spotted what looked like family groups of wild boar near his home. And there  have been reports too of javali in the Porches countryside south of the N112.
Sudden outbursts of barking by fenced-in dogs at around sunrise or sunset can be a useful  signal that  boars are passing nearby.
Wild boar are capable of wrecking cars and have done so in collisions on ill-lit country roads in the Loulé area
People out walking in the countryside need to be cautious. Should you encounter one or more of these mighty, fanged creatures, back off!  Avoid any form of confrontation.
Don’t for a moment imagine you can outrun animals with such robust bodies but relatively little legs. They can sprint at 40 km/h and jump over obstacles one and a half metres tall.

Although short-sighted, the boar can quickly sense potential trouble but generally try to avoid conflict with humans by running for cover in dense undergrowth.  

Global warming permitting, wild boar are here to stay. It is one of the most widespread wild mammals in the world and one of the least endangered.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Reformed UK criminal helps beat Alentejo property scammers

An elderly couple, who say they fear losing their home in southern Portugal because of a scam, have turned to a reformed criminal for help.
All the characters in this remarkable saga are British. The victims are Richard and Jane Wallinger, who fell in love with Portugal’s lifestyle and people on their first short visit in 2002. They sold their home in the UK in 2004 and used the funds to buy a house 30 kilometres from the town of Ferreiras do Alentejo in the district of Beja.
They say they were conned into trying to buy another plot of land by an unmarried couple who turned out to be fraudsters. The person trying to solve the ongoing problem is Shaun Smith, a former “enforcer” who was sentenced in Liverpool to five years' imprisonment for a firearms offence.
Released from prison in 2009, Smith is now the director of an investigative and debt collection company. He has recently risen to fame as a bare-knuckle boxer in a Netflix documentary featuring his gym in Warrington, Cheshire.
Richard Wallinger, a former racing driver, says he handed over an initial payment of £50,000 in cash to a supposed vendor for a plot of land on a Ferreiras do Alentejo farm. He later made a bank payment of £60,000.

Wallinger says the amount he paid, including tax and lawyer fees, totalled the equivalent of €184,000. The vendor whom Richard had paid later denied receiving the £50,000 cash. His partner still lives on the farm but says she is no longer in a relationship with him, yet he has since been seen at her home.
Wallinger insists, however, that in 2004 the two alleged fraudsters had promised to repay him the full amount for the land he thought he had bought but which was never in his name. They had only given back the £60,000 and were now trying to sell the land to another couple.
In January 2007 both the alleged fraudsters attended a mediation hearing in the UK and agreed to return an outstanding amount of   £116,000 to Wallinger within 21 days.
That did not happen, so Wallinger arranged to have the High Court order served at the farm on the vendor’s partner as she was the registered owner, but this backfired. She won a court judgement against Wallinger in which he was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.
Everything became more complicated when the British court order was transferred to the Portuguese legal system. The Wallingers were unable to attend civil hearings in Portugal because of poor health. They were both battling cancer.
A charge was lodged against their property in Portugal and the amount they owe has now reached nearly €145,000. Their financial problems and fear of losing their beloved home drove them to consider committing suicide.
Jane and I have endured 16 and more years of hell at the hands of these evil fraudsters,” says Richard. “Only ou~
r strong competitive background as motor racing championship winners has helped us to deal with the stress and trauma”.
A friend referred them to Shaun Smith, who had totally changed his ways and turned his back on crime. As director of Shaun Smith Enterprises Ltd., he fully sympathises with the Wallingers’ plight. Last month he wrote to the alleged conman setting out some disturbing figures.
According to Smith, the fraudsters owes the Wallingers the original High Court amount of £116,000, plus interest at 8% per annum from January 2007 of £113,292, and collection costs to date of £15,000. Total: £244,292.
Smith offered to meet and discuss how the debt might be settled before further costs are incurred, but he has not yet received a reply.
Smith has described the situation as “diabolical.” He has emphasised that he “is going to fight tooth and nail to save the Wallinger pensioners from losing their home”.

   Jane Wallinger

Richard Wallinger

                                   Shaun Smith                                 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

UK and Portugal sign bilateral agreement on voting rights

The British Embassy in Lisbon has just issued a statement on a new bilateral agreement that secures the rights of Portuguese citizens in the UK and British citizens in Portugal to stand and vote in local elections in each other’s countries after the UK leaves the EU. 

The statement says the agreement was signed in Lisbon by Lord Callanan, UK Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the EU, and by PT State Secretary for European Affairs, Dra Ana Paula Zacarias, in the presence of the Minister for Internal Administration, Dr Eduardo Cabrita. 

The agreement guarantees that all who have the right to vote in local elections and hold office on the day the UK leaves the EU will maintain that right in the future, whether the UK leaves with or without a deal. It also recognises the right of new UK residents in Portugal to vote in local elections (after 3 years of residency) and to stand in and be elected for local office (after 5 years of residency).

This is another important reassurance for UK nationals living in Portugal and for PT nationals living in the UK, that their rights will be maintained, and it enables these citizens to continue to determine who represents them in the country they reside in.

Lord Callanan said: The oldest diplomatic agreement was signed between the UK and Portugal in 1386, now, over 600 years later, we’ve signed a treaty to secure the rights of our citizens in each other’s countries after the UK leaves the EU. This agreement gives further guarantees to the estimated 40,000 UK nationals here in Portugal and the 400,000 or so Portuguese citizens in the UK, that our historic alliance is still strong and their democratic right to vote will be protected, in any Brexit scenario

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Portugal at odds with its oldest ally, remaining firmly pro-EU

Democracy inevitably involves different opinions and often heated debate, but the nature of political diversity is much less toxic in Portugal than in many other European states, particularly the United Kingdom, Portugal’s oldest ally”.
Portugal is one of the EU’s smaller and also one of its most loyal member states.  Polls show that a significant majority of the population are happy to be within the EU, despite the harsh austerity and bailout obligations imposed on them by Brussels during the financial crisis.   
Following decades of dictatorship, both mainstream political parties have been strong advocates of European unity since joining the EU in 1986.
The delegation of 21 officials heading for Strasbourg and Brussels to serve between now and 2024 will comprise nine Socialists, six from the centre-right PSD, two each from the EB Left Bloc and the Communist party pcv7pev (CDU Alliance), and one each from the conservative CDS-PP and, for the first time, the People-Animals-Nature party, PAN.
When the leader of the Socialists, António Costa, became prime minister with a minority government in November 2015, he was dependent on the backing of the Left Bloc and the anti-EU Communists. Few pundits expected this loose alliance to last long. Yet the clear Socialist victory in the latest EU election was the first time a sitting government in Portugal won an EU election in 20 years.
The popularity of the Socialists has been spurred on by recent improvements in social services, education and transport facilities, and a great reduction in unemployment and poverty rates.
Their main rivals since the revolution, the centre-right Social Democrats, came second in the May EU vote but with a reduced percentage and the loss of two seats in the EU assembly.
The new Portuguese delegates will now separate into groupings with their closest political partners from the other 27 states for the start of the new session in Strasbourg on 2 July.  
The huge surge predicted from the far-right did not happen. In Portugal the far-right barely exists at all, but the populist movement across the continent, especially in France – never mind the UK – is still looming and poses a threat to EU stability.
Conversely, there were surprising gains from Liberal and Green parties in the latest EU election, most significantly in France and Germany.  
The upshot of all this is that the new 751-member European Parliament, of which Portugal is a small but staunch member, will be more diverse.
Let's hope that it will be able to act in a much more positive manner in the absence of the UK, which is hell-bent on leaving the EU at the end of October.  
In addition to many convoluted issues involving economics and immigration, the 2019-2023 EU parliament as a whole is expected to focus on reform, with greater emphasis on curbing such dire ongoing problems as global warming, social inequality and corruption.
Portugal’s mix of delegates can be expected to enthusiastically support such action, teaming up with the two mainstream EU groups who lost many seats in the election and no longer hold controlling power due to the surge in support for various independent and Green parties, as well as less dramatic showing by the far-right populists.   
Although the overall outcome of the election is expected to make EU parliamentary dialogue more complex, there is nevertheless optimism that the new configuration will promote positive reforms, including more action on social inequality, climate change and environmental issues.
Between now and the next EU parliamentary election in 2024, the people of Portugal and the many citizens from other European countries who live here can look forward to a degree of unity and confidence unlikely to exist in Italy and France, and certainly in the United Kingdom.   

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Insights into Adventure, Mystery and Intriguing Personalities throughout the History of the Algarve

The revised and updated third edition of People in a Place Apart is now available in both digital and print form from
The paperback edition can be bought locally in the bookshop in the main plaza of the Vale do Lobo resort. Other bookshops in the Algarve are expected to stock it soon.
More information can be obtained from the Faro-based publisher, Sílabas & Desafios.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cannabis business boom expected

A series of recent events indicate that Portugal is on its way to becoming a major producer and exporter of cannabis for medical purposes.

Holigen, a Portuguese company, has joined forces with a Canadian firm and when fully operational next year it could be one of the largest legal cannabis cultivation facilities in the world.

On its 72-hectare site in the Alentejo region north of the Algarve, Holigen will be able to initially produce about 500,000 kilograms of cannabis per year. According to estimates, the annual figure could rise to more than 630,000 kilograms.

Holigen is said to have invested  €40 million in the project and sold a 19.8% stake to the Canadian firm Flowr for a cash payment of nearly €4 million.

“We believe this is a transformative transaction that establishes Flowr as a global player in the cannabis industry,” said Vinay Tolia, co-chief executive of The Flowr Corporation. “We’re using our financial strength and industry-leading cultivation expertise to gain exposure to the rapidly expanding European and Australian markets through Holigen.”

Aurora  Cannabis Inc., based in Edmonton, Alberta, has signed an agreement to acquire a 51% ownership stake in Gaia Pharma, a Portuguese-based company, with plans to develop a local facility to produce medical cannabis and derivative products. 

The Canadian firm said it had advanced its strategy “to attain early mover advantage in countries with nascent medical marijuana markets.

One of Portugal’s major attractions for such foreign companies is that it has ideal climatic and local cultivation conditions.       

Portugal pioneered the decriminalisation of cannabis possession in 2001, but it later fell behind internationally in legalising cannabis for medical purposes. 

Then in 2018, the Portuguese Parliament passed new legislation governing the cultivation, extraction, commercial preparation, local distribution, import and export, transit and sale of cannabis.

The regulations were endorsed not only by the ruling Socialist and left-wing alliance, but by the right-of-centre Social Democrats, the largest single party in parliament. The move was strongly prompted and welcomed by Portugal’s leading association of medical doctors, but cannabis is still not available as a prescription medication in local pharmacies.

Some research pharmacists are opposed to it in the belief that there is no solid scientific evidence to prove the efficacy and safety of cannabis use. Similar uncertainty exists in various circles in other countries and will remain so pending a more thorough analysis of the benefits and risks.

At the centre of attention in all this is cannabidiol, or CBD, an active ingredient of cannabis, with little or no psychotropic effects. In other words, it doesn’t give you a “high”.

Some 800 CBD products are said to be already available on the market globally. While still a controversial substance, carefully regulated cannabis is now widely accepted as useful in dealing with such conditions as insomnia, anxiety, depression, nausea, arthritis and chronic pain.

It’s also being prescribed to combat post-traumatic stress disorder, alleviate side effects from cancer therapy, and help with other serious ailments including Parkinson’s disease.

While the pros and cons debate continues and entities such as the European Union and the United Nations remain cautious, the legal cannabis business is starting to boom.

Hundreds of millions of euros and dollars worth of cannabis are being legally produced in Europe, Canada and many American states.

If all states in America legalise medical cannabis, there is expected to be a $40 billion industry by 2025On top of this, an increasing number of states and nations are legalising the recreational use of cannabis.

The so-called “war on drugs” that has been going on for decades has clearly failed.

Drug trafficking and the illicit sale of marijuana, as well as stronger addictive substances such as cocaine and heroin, remain plentiful and easily available. According to the United Nations, 158.8 million people around the world use marijuana — more than 3.8% of the planet’s population.

More than 94 million people in the US have admitted using it at least once. A survey estimated that domestic marijuana production in the US increased tenfold over twenty-five years, from 1,000 metric tons in 1981 to 10,000 metric tons in 2006. Nearly 60% of those aged between 12 and 17 said that pot was easy to obtain.

Even in a relatively small country like Switzerland, an estimated 200,000 people are using the drug illegally. Last week the government said it was considering allowing up to 5,000 people to smoke marijuana in pilot studies that could lead to dropping the strict limitations on recreational use.

While the illegal drug trade has reaped vast profits over the years for gangsters and outpaced the agencies trying to control it, the current medical cultivation and distribution initiatives are attracting major investors because the way forward in a different direction means continued big business.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Britain is leaving, English is staying

One thing for sure amid the mass of political, economic and social unknowns as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union is that its language is staying.
This is ironic, as the current chaos in Britain could have been avoided had the whole question of Brexit been explained and debated before and since the 2016 referendum – in plain, honest English. 
English is by far the most spoken language across the continent of Europe. Much more than French or German, it’s the lingua franca used by the highest institutions within the European Union.
This is expected to continue long after Brexit, even though English will remain the predominant official language in only one of the EU’s 27 member states – Ireland.
English is the most widely spoken language in the world as so many people in so many nations learn it as a second language. 
For example, all schoolchildren in Portugal, from primary and certainly secondary age, are taught English.
At least 28 per cent of Portuguese citizens speak English reasonably fluently, and with an accent more easily understood than that in some regions of the UK.
Fewer Spaniards speak English but far more northern Europeans have a good command of English. It’s spoken by 90 per cent of Dutch people, 86 per cent of Danes and Swedes, and about 56 per cent  of Germans. 
Just as variations of English have evolved in North America, India, the Caribbean and elsewhere, Portuguese dialects have been firmly established in Brazil and parts of Africa.
As a national language, more people speak Chinese or Spanish than English, but with 360 million native speakers and almost twice as many second language speakers, English is the most prevalent language on the planet.
Portuguese is the third most spoken European language in the world. Globally, as a consequence of its former days as a colonial power, it’s the sixth after Arabic and Hindi. Only five percent of the 215 million Portuguese speakers actually live in Portugal.
Nowhere is language static. The spread of English has been encouraged by the enlargement of the European Union and the movement of working people westward from Eastern European countries.  
Euro-English has been developing in top EU circles since the mid-1980s.
It regularly appears in important EU documents, with spellings and word usages not found in standard English dictionaries.
For example, “expertises” and 'informations” are used in the plural form in line with other European languages.
“Planification” is commonly used in EU documents when referring to planning. “Comitology” is a noun referring to the work of committees.
A European Commission English Style Guide recommends other preferences in official documents, including some distinctly American spellings.
Even after Brexit, English-speakers should not be complacent, however. The working language of the European Court of Justice is French.