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Federal judge blocks Florida law barring contracts for business tied to Cuba, Syria

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] on Monday issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of a new Florida law [materials] that denies government contracts to companies that do business in Cuba or Syria. The law is currently facing a challenge [JURIST report] from Odebrecht Construction Inc. [corporate website, in Portuguese], a company that would be affected by the new legislation. The company argues that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion in the federal government's authority to regulate foreign affairs. In issuing the injunction, Judge K Michael Moore noted that laws like this have not survived in the past. The law, which was signed by Governor Rick Scott [official website] in early May, bars any company that is "engaged in business operations in Syria or Cuba" from bidding for government contracts and authorizes steep penalties for companies who fail to disclose ties to the countries. It was planned to take effect on July 1. Lawyers for Florida say the state has the authority to choose the businesses with which it contracts.

Cuba-US relations have improved in recent years. Last year US President Barack Obama [official profile] ordered [JURIST report] the Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security [official websites] to take steps to ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. The new regulations were expected to allow greater travel from the US to Cuba for religious and educational purposes, the transfer of up to $2000 per year to non-family members in Cuba so long as they are not senior government or Communist Party leaders, and all US international airports to service charter flights between the two countries. In 2009, Obama ordered the lifting of travel restrictions and restrictions on money transfers [JURIST report] between Cuban-Americans and their families in Cuba in 2009. Obama also ordered that US telecommunications companies be allowed to work within Cuba to facilitate communication between families split between the two countries. The plan was put forward as not only necessary for the interests of the families, but also as way to bolster a democratic movement within Cuba

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