Odebrecht challenges Cuba/Syria legislation

By Helen Wright06 June 2012

The US division of Brazilian contractor Odebrecht has filed a lawsuit against the US state of Florida.

The lawsuit challenges new legislation that would bar local governments from hiring companies with business ties to Cuba or Syria.

The new law, scheduled to take effect on 1 July, would make it illegal for US state and local government agencies from awarding contracts worth US$ 1 million or more to any company that is also doing business in Cuba or Syria. Both countries are designated by the US as state sponsors of terrorism.

Odebrecht - which is currently upgrading the Cuban Port of Mariel through an affiliated company - claims the new law is unenforceable and unconstitutional.

Odebrecht is seeking a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the law. In court documents, it argued that US federal statutes and regulations do not authorise states to enforce their own sanctions against Cuba.

The contractor frequently bids on public contracts with state and local government agencies in Florida, and said it planned to bid on US$ 3.3 billion worth of Florida Department of Transport (FDOT) work this year.

"If the Cuba Amendment is enforceable and its contractual prohibitions are applied to [Odebrecht], it will be prohibited from submitting the bids it has been preparing and will be preparing for FDOT and other local government projects this year," the lawsuit states.

Odebrecht is also working on several on-going contracts in Florida - for instance, it is part of a joint venture working on the North Terminal Development Consolidation Program at the Miami International Airport, and is the general contractor for a project connecting the Miami Metro Mover to Miami International Airport.

The company said it had been awarded 35 contracts with Florida state agencies and local governments since 1990 worth US$ 3.9 billion.

The lawsuit was filed against Florida Secretary for the Department of Transportation Ananth Prasad on 4 June in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

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