Law limits hiring firms with links to Cuba

March 14, 2012 at 4:21 PM   |   Comments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 14 (UPI) -- Florida lawmakers have passed a measure forbidding local governments from hiring companies that do business with Cuba, officials say.

The Miami Herald said the law, which governs contracts worth at least $1 million, appears to be aimed at Odebrecht USA of Coral Gables, one of the largest contractors in Miami-Dade County. The company is a subsidiary of a Brazilian conglomerate whose Cuban affiliate is working on a major expansion of the Port of Mariel in Florida.

The law, which also covers companies that work with Syria, is designed to keep taxpayers' money from going to repressive regimes. Cuba and Syria are on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"It puts the decision on the companies that are affected," said Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, one of the bill's sponsors. "Do they want to do business in Florida, or do they want to do business in these countries?"

But experts say the law likely will be challenged in court.

States are barred from limiting local governments' contracting decisions based on contractors' international work, said Dan O'Flaherty, vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, based in Washington, which supports trade with Cuba.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, which supports a trade embargo, said Odebrecht, which is not named in the bill, is "the most egregious" example of a foreign company doing business in Florida and Cuba through subsidiaries.

"This [law] doesn't say Odebrecht USA has to leave," Claver-Carone said. "They can stay and do private business in Florida. It basically does not allow for public taxpayer money to be used -- that is, money from many of the victims of the Cuban government."

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