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Odebrecht sues Florida over Cuba crackdown law

The Coral Gables-based subsidiary of Odebrecht, the Brazilian engineering and construction conglomerate, sued the state Monday over a contentious new Florida law that bans governments from hiring companies with business ties to Cuba.

The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, contends that the law is unenforceable and unconstitutional because it sets foreign policy — a power that the courts have ruled belongs solely to the federal government.

The law would prohibit state and local government agencies from awarding contracts worth at least $1 million to Odebrecht Construction Inc. — among others — because a subsidiary of its parent company is upgrading the Cuban Port of Mariel.

Gov. Rick Scott caused an uproar last month when he signed the law in a ceremony at Miami’s Freedom Tower, only to issue a statement shortly afterward suggesting the law was unconstitutional. The governor later retreated from that stance, saying he backed the law and that his administration would defend it against a likely legal challenge.

A Scott spokesman declined to comment Monday because the governor’s office had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.

Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah, one of two Miami-Dade Republicans to sponsor the legislation, which received near-unanimous support from state lawmakers, said the court should uphold the law.

“This is not about foreign policy,” he said after learning about the lawsuit from a Miami Herald reporter. “I see it as a states’ rights issue. We have a right to decide who we want to do business with.”

In its lawsuit, however, Odebrecht argues that federal laws “do not authorize states to enforce their own sanctions against Cuba.” More here.