These days, current United States policy towards Cuba seems to be maneuvered by a strong backbone called Florida, who appears to be standing a little taller. With recent news of stiffer laws that Florida state legislators have backed to their 90.5-mile away neighbor, could the state of Florida be overstretching its rights and treading upon the federal government by creating its own foreign policy?
Curiously enough, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has chosen to decline from answering this question by refusing to hear the two recent appeals regarding Florida relations with Cuba. This abstention has set off victory-style remarks from the Cuban-American legislators who are not in favor of engaging Cuba. On the other hand, it has led to dismay for businesses that have negotiations with Cuba, for students and professors of Floridian public colleges and universities and not to mention the majority of Floridians and U.S. Citizens that want to change our policy towards Cuba.
Let's step back for a moment, the following is what's at hand:
- The first scenario: One law, which is currently being blocked by a Miami federal judge, would ban any foreign company that has ties with Cuba to conduct business in Florida. This means that companies like a Florida-based subsidiary of a Brazilian conglomerate would be prohibited from bidding on billions of dollars in government contracts. The company Odebrecht Construction Inc. says it intends to bid on $3.3 billion in Florida transportation projects this year alone and furthermore filed a lawsuit against Florida for not compiling with the U.S. Constitution. Congressman David Rivera (R-FL) almost filed a separate lawsuit on Florida Gov. Rick Scott for issuing "a letter that essentially declared the law unenforceable."
- The second scenario: Since 2006, another law has affected students and professors of Florida public universities and colleges and will continue since last Monday, the SCOTUS has declined to hear the case. Although FL lawmakers are thrilled that travel will not be provided to this "terrorist state," people like Howard Simon, head of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, have other things to say: "The research is not going to end. It will just be done by universities elsewhere outside of Florida. It will keep us in an enforced state of ignorance."
If the majority of U.S. citizens don't want these new restrictions, then who's celebrating these draconian laws?
- Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) – "I commend these business leaders for standing firm in their commitment to the freedom of Cuba. The Cuban communist dictatorship is a threat to all human freedom."
- Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL 18th) – "The future of Cuba belongs to the Cuban people, not to their oppressors. The stand that these business leaders have taken assures that this future will be bright and full of possibilities for Cuba and its citizens."
- Congressman David Rivera (R-FL 25th) – "By denying another appeal on this case, the Supreme Court sends a clear message that the Florida legislature, the people's elected representatives, has the right to decide how the state's taxpayer dollars are spent and how they should not be spent. Floridians do not want their money or publicly-funded resources to be utilized for travel to terrorist nations, or to enrich terrorist regimes."
J. Antonio “Tony” Villamil, dean of Saint Thomas University’s School of Business and former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush Administration, said without mincing words, that the new law is “a black eye on Florida… And it doesn’t do anything to help the freedom of Cuba.”