Florida’s largest foreign-trade partners, Brazil and Canada, expressed concern about the law to the state last year. And the European Union, Norway, Switzerland and Singapore also raised alarms at a World Trade Organization meeting last summer, Marcus revealed in his ruling.
Two Miami-Dade Republican state lawmakers, Sen. René García of Hialeah and Rep. Michael Bileca of Miami, had sponsored the legislation targeting Odebrecht, which has had a hand in some of Miami-Dade’s biggest projects, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the stadium at Florida International University and the expansion of Miami International Airport.
A disappointed García said Monday that he disagreed with the ruling and would approach the attorney general to find out what more the state could do.
“I’ll reach out to Pam Bondi tomorrow and see what recourse do we have, and if we do have any, I want to make sure that we proceed with it,” he said.
Odebrecht’s latest political skirmish involves Airport City, a major, $512 million project that would have the firm would develop 33 acres around MIA. A handful of Miami-Dade cities have approved legislation opposing the development, and the Latin Builders Association skipped an information session on the project for construction trade organizations. Both cited Odebrecht’s parent company’s subsidiary work in Cuba.
Several county commissioners, who must ultimately approve the project, said after hiring Odebrecht to rebuild wharves at PortMiami in 2011 that they did not want to award any more contracts to the firm. In last year’s general election, 62 percent of voters approved a nonbinding ballot question asking whether Miami-Dade should ban hiring companies that “actively” do business with state sponsors of terrorism. Both Cuba and Syria are on that list.
Airport City’s paperwork has been in order for weeks, Odebrecht has said, but the project has yet to come before commissioners for review.
County Attorney Robert Cuevas issued an opinion last month saying the county could proceed normally with the project, despite the ongoing federal litigation.
Monday’s ruling upholds the lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect. Odebrecht could ask the lower court to impose a permanent injunction, or the state could ask for a trial to try to show why the preliminary prohibition should be lifted.
Success at trial would be an uphill battle. The basic facts of the case are not in dispute, and both the district and appeals courts extensively analyzed how the law runs afoul of federal precedent.
In his ruling Monday, Marcus wrote that the Florida law conflicts with federal law in at least three ways: by affecting companies that do not directly work in Cuba and therefore do not violate the U.S. embargo against the island’s Communist regime, or that are exempt from the embargo; by imposing penalties on those companies beyond the ones set in federal law; and by undermining the authority Congress has given the president to set foreign policy.
“Federal policy towards Cuba is long-standing, it is nuanced, it is highly calibrated, and it is constantly being fine-tuned,” the opinion says. “It is designed to sanction strongly the Castro regime while simultaneously permitting humanitarian relief and economic transactions that will benefit the Cuban people.”
When the state passed its law, Marcus wrote, “it was plainly not operating in an area where the federal government has been asleep at the switch.”