Support Cuba’s dissidents, commissioners
Posted on Friday, 02.10.12
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Support Cuba's dissidents, commissioners
Among Cubans and Cuban Americans, a number of foreign companies have
earned a place in the "hall of infamy" for their outright complicity
with the Castro dictatorship. These include Spain's Sol-Melia hotel
chain and Canada's Sherritt mining company for profiting from long years
of the Castros' apartheid brand of tourism and exploitation of Cuba's
However, Brazil's Odebrecht construction conglomerate is now placing
itself in a reprehensible class of its own. Foreign companies that seek
to do business in Cuba generally recognize they must choose either to
profit from the monopoly of the Castro dictatorship or from Cuban
Americans in Florida's free market.
In the 1990s, Sol-Melia and Sherritt shamefully chose the Castro
dictatorship, giving up opportunities in Florida. Odebrecht feels it is
duly entitled to both.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff traveled to Cuba last week to promote
the company's business arrangements with the Castros' dictatorship.
These include enlarging the Port of Mariel, which Raúl Castro considers
the single most important project to ensure the economic survival of his
regime, and a new 10-year agreement to revitalize the island's moribund
sugar industry. During her trip, Rousseff made a point of shunning Cuban
dissidents and even refused opportunities to criticize the Castros'
Meanwhile, a couple hundred miles to the north, for more than a decade
Odebrecht has been seducing Miami-Dade County commissioners, taking in
more than $4.8 billion in taxpayer dollars — much of it from
Cuban-American victims of its business partners in Havana.
The company has been awarded contracts on projects ranging from the
seemingly interminable reconstruction of Miami International Airport, to
building the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art and a no-bid
contract to build Florida International University's stadium — complete
with an Odebrecht skybox.
Its seduction has been so effective that Miami-Dade County commissioners
jumped through legal hoops last year to give Odebrecht a $57 million
contract to strengthen the cargo wharves of the Port of Miami.
Commissioners sought to justify the contract by asserting Odebrecht was
the lowest bidder. But it wasn't.
The lowest bidder was actually a U.S. company — American Bridge Company.
It didn't get the contract because of a "local preference" that favored
Odebrecht despite the extra expense. How could that be?
Only in Miami-Dade County can a Brazilian company be given preferential
treatment (at extra cost to taxpayers) over a U.S. company. It was an
award that fuels suspicion and feeds nasty stereotypes. This charade has
gone on long enough.
Rousseff, in support of Odebrecht, didn't hesitate to shun Cuban
dissidents seeking political and economic reform. The time has come for
Miami-Dade County commissioners — a majority are Cuban-American — to
shun Odebrecht in support of those dissidents. As they do so they may
find they're also helping U.S. companies.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, director, U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, Washington, D.C.