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Florida Governor Wants State To Divest From Companies That Deal With Venezuela

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The state of Florida is closely involved in Venezuela's political and economic crisis. More than 100,000 Venezuelans live in Florida. Many fled there to escape repression from the regimes of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. With the crisis ratcheting up in Venezuela, Florida's governor wants the state to divest from any companies that do business with Venezuela. NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The town of Doral is a Miami suburb sometimes known as Doralzuela, home to thousands of Venezuelan expatriates, many of whom gather often at a local restaurant, El Arepazo 2. With his second appearance there in recent months, Florida's governor, Rick Scott, has almost become a regular.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish). Rick Scott.

ALLEN: Scott was in Dural yesterday for a rally to celebrate the release of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from prison in Caracas over the weekend. But there was another reason for Scott's visit to the heart of South Florida's Venezuelan community. He was there to talk about his plan to go to Florida's Cabinet next month with a proposal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK SCOTT: Any organization that does business with the Maduro regime cannot do business with the state of Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering) Yeah.

ALLEN: But Scott says the idea is to divest Florida's holdings, including its $150 billion pension fund, from companies doing business in Venezuela. After his speech on a noisy restaurant patio, Scott said it's a policy already in place for some other countries, including Cuba.

SCOTT: In our pension plan, we can make sure that where we invest our dollars at the state - we can make sure that none of those dollars are invested in companies that do business with the Maduro regime. We can do that.

ALLEN: That's a policy that seems aimed directly at Goldman Sachs. The Wall Street investment bank came under fire recently after buying $2.8 billion in bonds issued by Venezuela's state-run oil company. Last week, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez unveiled a bill that, like Scott's proposal, would require Florida to divest from companies doing business with the Maduro regime. And Rodriguez says his bill is aimed directly at Goldman Sachs.

JOSE JAVIER RODRIGUEZ: We, as taxpayers here in Florida, should not be participating in a purchase like Goldman's. And that's really what motivates this.

ALLEN: Rodriguez says he's happy Governor Scott has taken up what is now emerging as a bipartisan push to divest Florida funds from companies doing business in Venezuela. But Goldman Sachs says the Florida policies may not apply to the bank. In a statement, Goldman's spokesman says, we have not conducted business with the Maduro regime and do not intend to. The bank notes that it didn't buy the bonds from Venezuela but from a broker on the secondary market.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.