“We shouldn’t send our hard-earned tax dollars to firms that turn around and invest in these countries sponsors of terrorism,” he said. “Look what’s happening in Syria now.”
State law already imposes restrictions on hiring firms that work in Iran and Sudan, which, along with Cuba and Syria, are considered state sponsors of terrorism. But the federal government expressly authorizes hiring limitations relating to Iran and Sudan, not the other two countries.
Florida’s State Board of Administration found in a preliminary analysis last year that 238 companies the state invests in could have connections to Cuba, including airlines, banks and pharmaceuticals. Fourteen firms, mostly in the oil and energy industry, could have ties to Syria.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the United States Telecom Association both filed briefs supporting Odebrecht in its case.
In Miami-Dade, where Cuba often seeps into local politics, elected officials have had a fraught relationship with hiring companies linked to the island. County attorneys advised commissioners in 2007 that contractors’ Cuba ties could not be considered in awarding the PortMiami tunnel project, despite concerns that an affiliate of the French firm Bouygues Travaux Publics built 11 resorts in partnership with the Cuban military.
After hiring Odebrecht to rebuild seaport wharves in 2011, several commissioners said they did not want to award any more contracts to the firm. They put a nonbinding question on the ballot last November asking if the county should ban hiring companies that “actively” do business with countries considered state sponsors of terrorism. Sixty-two percent of voters agreed.
That could spell trouble for Odebrecht, despite the company’s court victory. Its latest county project — the $512 million Airport City, in which Odebrecht would develop 33 acres surrounding Miami International Airport — has stalled for months, even after the county attorney opined Miami-Dade could proceed with the project during the federal litigation.
Airport City appeared ready for a vote earlier this year. But with the March retirement of one of its most prominent proponents, Aviation Director José Abreu, it slowed again.
New Director Emilio González is in talks with Odebrecht to try to get a more palatable deal than the one agreed to last year after two years of negotiations, which has already received Federal Aviation Administration approval.
“We are meeting and speaking with Odebrecht regularly to see how they can better their financial agreements with the county,” González told the Miami Herald two weeks ago.
In 2011, all of Odebrecht’s business came from public infrastructure and transportation contracts. It has had a hand in some of South Florida’s biggest projects, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and, more recently, expanding the southern runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.