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FL: Rick Scott’s Cuba-Syria sanctions bill faces first lawsuit

By   /   June 12, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI— A controversial trade legislation prohibiting state contracts to companies with commercial links with Cuba and Syria will come into effect July 1.

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation banning all state contracts with businesses tied to Cuba

Odebrecht S.A., a Brazilian petrochemical and construction company with a local subsidiary in Coral Gables, filed the lawsuit in Miami federal court, arguing the law is unconstitutional because foreign policy is a function of the federal, not state, government, reported the Miami Herald.

José Gabilondo, a professor of law at Florida International University, said that the court challenge would more than likely declare the law out of jurisdiction for the state of Florida.

“The law creates legal uncertainty for company who want to have contracts with Florida,” Gabilondo told Florida Watchdog.

This means that Odebrecht will essentially be in violation of state law once it goes into affect,” added Gabilondo.

VIDEO: Spanish-language interviews with Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and law professor José Gabilondo

Since 1990, the company has been awarded 35 contracts in various state projects valued at over $3.9 billion, according to documents obtained by Reuters.

Among them is a new project for a performing arts center in Miami and a current bid of $700 million to build a hotel complex of offices associated with the Miami International Airport. 

Calls to Oderbrecht’s local office were not returned.

Despite the cloud of unconstitutionality, residents and local leaders still support the sanctions law passed by the majority Republican Legislature. 

“I think a law is just and right, because America has done that in the past,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado told Florida Watchdog.

For example, in South Africa when there was a horrible system of apartheid, the United States was at the forefront of the world to wean the country and cut off all trade ties,” Reglado said. Moving away from the lawfulness or otherwise is right and I think the state of Florida is doing the right thing.”

The legislation was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in an atmosphere of victory and jubilation near the Freedom Tower in Miami, a symbol of Cuban exiles, against the support of Republican leaders like U.S. Rep. David Rivera, District 25, and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, District 21, among others.

But just hours after signing the legislation, the governor caused anger among local leaders and residents by suggesting that the law is actually unconstitutional.

Consulted by local media, the governor has to comment on Odebrecht’s lawsuit, claiming he has not yet seen the lawsuit.



Yaël formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.