CUBA

Former Cuban political prisoners ask for investigation of Coral Gables firm

 

jtamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

The Brazilian conglomerate that owns OdebrechtUSA is carrying out construction projects in Cuba worth more than $1 billion.

Former political prisoners of the Cuban regime asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether OdebrechtUSA, a Coral Gables branch of a Brazilian conglomerate, has violated U.S. laws by failing to register as an agent of a foreign country.

The company is active in several major construction projects around South Florida and its parent firm, Odebrecht Group, is building a $900 million expansion in the Cuban port of Mariel and about to start a $150 million remodeling of Cuba’s airports.

“Some of us political prisoners have been worried for some time because the work of this company in Cuba is helping the Cuban regime to remain in power,” said Angel de Fana, director of the Miami-based Unyielding Until Liberty and Democracy in Cuba.

The letter, signed by Antonio Castro of the Coral Gables law firm of Infante/Zumpano, says that Odebrecht “is a known proxy of the Brazilian government’s foreign policy agenda and the ties between the governments of Brazil and Cuba are widely known.”

It was sent to the Justice Department office that enforces the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, and dated Nov. 1. The law requires agents of foreign entities to register with the department.

OdebrechtUSA spokesperson Thais Reiss denied any wrongdoing in an email to el Nuevo Herald.

“Odebrecht vehemently rejects any allegation that it has violated United States law and is extremely proud of its record of performance and economic investment in the State and local communities where we operate,” the email said. “Our focus remains on the delivery of outstanding service to our clients and the continued growth of a sustainable business presence in the United States.”.

The letter to the Justice Department said the Brazilian government is financing the Mariel and airport projects in Cuba as a way of challenging U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba, and has classified all documents on the Cuba deals as “state secrets.”

OdebrechtUSA had been involved in the construction in Miami of the AmericanAirlines Arena, the North and South Terminals at Miami International Airport, the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the Metromover.

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