What "Drives" Us Against Odebrecht?

Thursday, April 4, 2013
The President of Odebrecht USA, Gilberto Neves, claims to be unaware of why we oppose his company's business ties with Cuba.

I don’t know what’s driving them,” Neves told The Miami Herald about efforts to stop public contracting with Odebrecht, while it continues partnering with the Castro regime.

Here's what "drives" us, Mr. Neves:

- For over a decade, Odebrecht has received billions of dollars in taxpayer money from Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County, a community that has suffered greatly at the hands of the brutal Castro dictatorship.

- Insensitive to this, in 2010, Odebrecht entered into a strategic partnership with the Cuban military to modernize the Port of Mariel, a priority business objective of the Castro regime.

- It is also partnering with the Cuban military to create the Mariel Special Development Zone, in order to facilitate "maquilas" (and exploit slave labor) for the Castro regime, a known violator of international labor norms.

- Odebrecht's business partners in Cuba routinely harass, torture and imprison thousands of peaceful democracy activists -- including women and children -- each year.  Not to mention deprive 11.5 million human beings of internationally-recognized human, political, civil and economic rights.

- Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva inked the Port of Mariel deal in Havana between Odebrecht and the Castro regime on the same day that Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died from an 85-day hunger strike.

- In order not to offend the Castro regime and complete the deal for Odebrecht, Lula compared Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Cuban dissidents to "common criminals."

- Despite concerns raised by Miami-Dade County officials in 2011 about Odebrecht's partnership with the Castro regime, Odebrecht decided to double-down on its business ties with Cuba and in 2012 also contracted with the Castro regime to help manage its sugar industry.

- Today, Odebrecht remains the Castro regime's most trusted foreign business partner.  Odebrecht was similarly one of former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez's closest business partners.  Chavez boasted of his close friendship with Odebrecht's executives.  As Reuters reported last week, now Odebrecht is pushing for Chavez's appointed successor in order to protect its business ties with the Venezuelan government.

- During her recent trip to Brazil, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez publicly questioned the Brazilian government's indifference to human rights violations in Cuba.  The answer is simple: Brazil's silence and indifference is to protect Odebrecht's business ties with the Castro brothers.

- Florida taxpayers spoke nearly unanimously - through their elected representatives - not to have their money spent on companies that do business with the brutal dictatorships of Cuba and Syria.

- Due to Odebrecht's absolute unwillingness to sever ties with the Castro dictatorship, it instead decided to legally challenge the democratic will of Florida's taxpayers.

- Nearly 62% of Miami-Dade County voters said during the November 2012 election that they did not want their taxpayer funds used to contract with companies that partner with the regimes of Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

- Odebrecht has proven it has no respect for Florida's taxpayers, let alone for the victims of Castro's dictatorship.

- Used to inking back-room deals with the Castro brothers in Havana, Chavez in Caracas and Gaddafi in Tripoli, Odebrecht wants to force its will upon the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County.

The question remains: Will Miami-Dade County's elected officials allow them to do so?

From The Miami Herald:

Contractor Odebrecht USA has invited construction trade organizations to attend an information session Monday on a massive new project for Miami International Airport called Airport City. But don’t expect to see the Latin Builders Association there.

The LBA will skip the session because a subsidiary of Odebrecht’s Brazilian parent company is renovating the Cuban Port of Mariel. That connection has put the Coral Gables-based Odebrecht USA in political hot water. Several county commissioners have opposed giving the firm any more work.

“We must be steadfast in our resolve for our brothers in Cuba,” LBA President Bernie Navarro wrote in a letter. “We can’t allow Odebrecht to traffic with our suffering. Our position is not negotiable.”

Navarro, however, made sure to call Gilberto Neves, Odebrecht USA’s president, “a class act.” “His actions and respect for this community are not the same as those of his corporate parent,” he wrote.

Navarro’s letter was distributed by Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee in Washington that has vocally complained about Odebrecht’s ties to Cuba. A handful of Miami-Dade cities have approved legislation opposing Airport City.

“I don’t know what’s driving them,” Neves told The Miami Herald’s editorial board last week about the cities’ resolutions. “I hope that the benefits of [the project] outweigh that.”