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Amid ethnic tensions, Miami International Airport project survives


A stalled development at Miami International Airport survived a vote Wednesday at Miami-Dade County Hall that exposed ethnic tensions between a pair of commissioners.

Final negotiations can continue with contractor Odebrecht USA to build Airport City, a hotel and commercial project on about nine acres of county-owned airport land.

Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo tried to delay the agreement, which has been in the works since 2008, by asking Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration to examine potential alternatives for the prime site. Odebrecht USA has been in Bovo’s crosshairs since he learned a few years ago that an affiliate of its Brazilian parent company works in Cuba.

Bovo’s proposal died with a tied vote after a blow-up that followed Commissioner Javier Souto’s suggestion that the board should steer clear of inflaming Cuban-American sentiment, given the Cuban exile community’s role in the county.

“The Latins here pay more taxes per capita than anybody else,” Souto said. “And out of the Latin people, the prevalent community is the Cuban community. If you don’t know that, you don’t know where you’re living.”

Miami is where it is today, he added, “because of the Cubans who came here.”

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