Though the new legislation doesnt name Odebrecht, Claver-Carone called the firm the most egregious example of a foreign company doing business in Florida and Cuba through subsidiaries.
Largely by landing lucrative deals with local governments, Odebrecht USA has flourished in Miami for two decades, operating like a homegrown Florida company. Gilberto Neves, the local subsidiarys president and CEO, is a U.S. citizen and immediate past chairman of the board of the YMCA of Greater Miami.
But another arm of Odebrecht is a prominent player in Cuba. On a visit to the island in late January, Brazils leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, touted Odebrechts plan to help revitalize sugar production there.
Odebrechts success in Miami includes taking part in some of the regions biggest projects. It is close to finishing the gleaming new $3 billion North Terminal at Miami International Airport and is working on the Metromover link to MIA. Odebrecht was involved in the construction of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the American Airlines Arena and the stadium at Florida International University.
Neves said his company learned of the legislation only Friday, when it passed.
We are a very good corporate citizen, because we care, he said of Odebrecht USA. My kids were raised here. This is home for us, and wed like to continue that legacy.
The company already faces opposition from some Miami-Dade commissioners who have signaled they are unlikely to give the Brazilian giant more county work.
Odebrecht has been negotiating more than a year with county aviation officials on a deal to build the proposed Airport City, a massive, $700-million complex including two hotels plus office and retail space on airport grounds. The company envisions a public-private investment in which it would build and operate the facility and pay the airport a share.
According to an economic impact study, Neves said, the project would generate about 5,800 jobs during construction and about 10,000 jobs afterward. Its a major, major economic boost for Miami-Dade County, he said.
The plan, now under Federal Aviation Administration review, would ultimately have to win commission approval.
Last June, when Commission Chairman Joe Martinez asked County Attorney Robert Cuevas for options on contracts with Odebrecht, Cuevas wrote that state and local governments cannot generally take action on foreign trade matters already subject to federal law.
Nevertheless, when aviation director Jose Abreu mentioned the Airport City project while addressing the commission last month, Martinez told Abreu not to waste his time, indicating the proposal would not move forward because of the firms ties to Cuba. In particular, Martinez mentioned Odebrechts sugar venture.
There is other dais opposition. Commissioner Javier Souto, a Bay of Pigs veteran, said Tuesday that it would be horrible if the commission voted for the Airport City project.
It would be adding insult to injury, he said in an interview, adding that the new legislation takes care of that.
Last year, Commissioner Esteban Bovo changed his vote on a deal awarding Odebrecht the contract to strengthen the wharves at the Port of Miami, saying he had learned of the firms Cuba ties after his vote.
I dont think we should be playing the role of hypocrites and saying one thing to our community and then doing something else as a governing body, said Bovo, who favors the new law.
A separate part of the law restricts state investments, such as those made for pension funds, in businesses linked to Cuba and Syria.
Why are we going to continue to do business with them? Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, said of the new legislation he sponsored. It doesnt make sense.
Miami Herald staff writer Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report from Tallahassee.
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