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Hispanic Caucus chastises Florida Chamber for opposing anti-Cuba law in court

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has filed a court brief opposing a new state law prohibiting governments from hiring firms tied to Cuba. And the Hispanic Caucus is not happy about it.

Sen. René Garcia, the Hialeah Republican who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the caucus, fired off a letter Thursday to the chamber's chairman, Anthony J. Connelly, saying the caucus was "appalled" by the chamber's decision.

"We fail to comprehend why the Florida Chamber of Commerce is so adamantly attempting to block legislation which condemns political and economic oppression in other countries, especially with a country 90 miles away from our borders," Garcia wrote. "We find it hypocritical that the Florida Chamber of Commerce would condone the economic and political legitimacy of countries that fight against the principles in which this country and your organization were founded upon."

A Miami federal judge blocked the implementation of the law in June. Gov. Rick Scott's administration appealed the decision a month later. The chamber filed a brief with the appeals court opposing the law, which also prohibits the state and local governments from awarding contracts to companies with business ties to Syria.

The chamber's formal opposition is not unexpected. The chamber, which had lobbied behind the scenes to get the governor to veto the bill or the attorney general to declare it unconstitutional, had previously raised concerns -- echoed by Florida's largest trading partners, Brazil and Canada -- that the law could chill foreign investment in the state.

The chamber's president has said he agrees that companies should not work in countries like Cuba, but passing laws restricting government hiring could spook businesses from working in Florida.

Odebrecht Construction, the Coral Gables-based subsidiary of the Brazilian engineering and construction conglomerate, sued the state, arguing the law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the federal government's power to set foreign policy.