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Cuban Business Owner Who Fled Communist Cuba Launches GOP Congressional Bid, Dominates GOP Primary Field In Fundraising
Irina Vilarino
Photo: Irina Vilarino

Business owner Irina Vilariño, an immigrant who fled communist Cuba with her family as a young girl, has launched a Republican bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida’s 26th District, saying that she was inspired to run after seeing that “the same policies that wrecked my world in Cuba were beginning to take hold in the Democrat Party.”

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Wire, Vilariño highlighted the issues that she cares about the most and what she sees in the Democrat Party that reminds her of communist Cuba.

Vilariño, 43, is the co-owner of Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine restaurants, the first of which “opened in 1984 in Hollywood after her family fled Cuba, and at least a dozen locations are now spread around South Florida,” The Miami Herald reported.

Members of Vilariño’s family, including her father, were locked up as political prisoners in communist Cuba and, at just 4-years-old, Vilariño and her family arrived in Florida during the Mariel Boatlift, an event where a large number of Cubans escaped to the U.S. during 1980.

“My grandparents emigrated to Cuba from Spain to escape socialism. My parents came to the United States from Cuba to escape communism,” Vilariño said. “If we don’t fight to preserve our freedoms here, there is no place left in the world for my daughter to go. We must preserve the American Dream. This is the cause that will define the success of our generation, and I urge you to join with me on this mission.”

Vilariño raised more than three times more than the next highest Republican candidate for the seat, bringing in over $370,000 during the first few months of her candidacy.

Vilariño has made numerous media appearances prior to announcing her run for Congress and was featured at the White House in September 2018 for Hispanic Heritage Month, where she charmed President Donald Trump.

Vilariño is challenging freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), who has voted with socialist Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ilhan Omar (MN) 95% of the time while in Congress.

Mucarsel-Powell knocked off Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in 2018, who was viewed by many Republicans as being weak and ineffective.

“Vilariño — a party loyalist with a sharp-tongued presence on social media — provides an interesting contrast with Curbelo, who frequently broke with Trump and often kept the president at a distance while representing a district that is both majority-Hispanic and left-leaning,” The Miami Herald added. “After Curbelo lost, Trump mocked him during a press conference and blamed his loss on his reluctance to embrace the president.”

The Daily Wire’s exclusive interview with Vilariño is featured below:

1. What inspired you to get into politics?

My family and I arrived to the U.S. when I was 4 years of age. My father and uncle had both been political prisoners in Cuba. For much of my adult life, I somewhat felt that politics in the U.S. were on some sort of autopilot. However, during the McCain-Obama election I saw a division and a radicalized rhetoric that started to change the United States. I began to fear that the same policies that wrecked my world in Cuba were beginning to take hold in the Democrat Party here. That is what compelled me to get involved in politics and take a more active role. I believe the best thing that I can bring to the process is perspective. I am an America that loves freedom, and I want to see it preserved for future generations.

2. As a person who fled communist Cuba and who knows firsthand the horrors of communism, do you see any similarities between the Democrat Party and the oppressive regime that you escaped?

The Democrat Party is [not a communist party]; however, the trend toward socialism and repressive policies embraced by the Democrats is a starting point, and I am deeply concerned about it. If there is any similarity, it’s in the smear tactics to scare and silence those that oppose and obstruct their path to power.

3. With the rise of socialism in the Democrat Party, are you also concerned about the Democrats’ continued push to curtail the freedoms of U.S. citizens?

Of course. Even in the name of good policy, any time we look to government to intrude itself, we lose freedom.

4. What do you say to other Latinos who listen to publications like CNN and believe that the president is racist and that enforcing immigration law and securing the border is racist?

Securing the border and embracing a policy of national self-defense is not racist. It is what is expected of any government.

5. Are you a Trump supporter? If so, can you explain what about the president you support?

I am my own person, but I support the President and his policies. I am for any president that promotes American exceptionalism, prosperity and individual liberties. He has done a good job of taking on the Washington establishment and of implementing free market policies that have revitalized our economy.

6. Why should minorities vote Republican and how should the party reach out to them?

To me the Republican Party encompasses the values of the country we aspired to live in when we fled communism: personal accountability, order, respect, justice, and freedom from an encroaching government. We should represent love of family, respect for the individual and the American dream and with that prosperity and stability.

7. Why should younger voters vote Republican and what are you going to do to reach them?

My family and I are a testament to what the individual can accomplish in a country that promotes personal accountability and freedoms versus government intrusion and entitlement. Upward mobility is only possible when we have a transparency and true public servants, not a top-heavy government and bureaucrats.

8. How should the GOP respond to some of the issues, like healthcare and student debt, that Democrats propose addressing with socialist policies?

There is a saying that socialist governments work only so long as there is enough of other people’s money to pay for everything. We are $22 trillion in debt. More free giveaways are going to bankrupt the country and empower our foreign enemies. We need to lower the cost of healthcare and pharmaceuticals. It is abusive that a pill that costs $15 elsewhere costs an American hundreds of dollars.

9. How should Republicans respond to the Democrats becoming the party of identity politics?

By calling it out for what it is. Democrats want to divide us by the color of our skin. Republicans want to unite us by the colors of our flag. All of us should want the best for our country and want only from our country the freedom to pursue our dreams.

10. What do you view as the greatest threat the United States both from a foreign and a domestic standpoint?

Right now, the single biggest threat to our existence is our national debt. We must get serious about cutting up the federal credit card. The very idea that the Democrats want to put us into more debt is one of the most anti-American, un-patriotic policy proposals that I can think of. Our middle class has to continue being the largest economic bloc to ensure our political stability and viability well into the future.

11. If elected, what do you hope to accomplish with respect to policy?

We must stop the over-spending. We need to be honest with our constituents and create awareness of the issues that are threatening our republic, institutionalized corruption being at the forefront. If I can be a part of the leadership team to achieve this, I will feel that my term of service is worthwhile.

12. The Democrat Party, with the help of the media, have really taken control of the narrative surrounding climate change. Many Republicans in your state, Florida, care about addressing climate issues. How does the Republican Party start to win over people who are concerned about the climate?

We are all concerned about our quality of life and about preserving our environment. I believe that we are already in the driver’s seat in many ways on this issue as our Governor Ron DeSantis has taken great steps to outline an aggressive agenda for water preservation, and I will be happy to be an advocate for him in Congress. The environment is a human issue not a political one.

13. A lot of the narrative surrounding the climate has come from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her proposed “Green New Deal,” which her former chief-of-staff even admitted was about implementing socialism. The “Green New Deal” is a socialist vision that the Democrat Party is trying to sell to America. How do you counter that? What is your vision for America?

The Green New Deal would be an economic wrecking ball for America. It is impractical and subjects our consumers and small businesses to financial penalties beyond their capacity. I will expose these bogus social[ist programs for what they are].

14. What do you believe is the cause of the increasing political polarization in the U.S. and how do you plan on helping to unite the country?

We need to unite the country around universal truths and around our common belief in God and the American Dream. Government will never be able to solve every ill, but people standing together can solve anything. Many on the Left look for any problem in America to demonize our success and prosperity. We need to start looking at our prosperity compared to the rest of the world and think of ways to protect the freedom and free markets that have created more prosperity and opportunity for more people than at any time in the history of the world. Both parties need to do what is right by the country and not by special interests. People need to have a fair chance without have the deck stacked against them.

15. What are your thoughts on Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and the rise of anti-Semitism in the Democrat Party?

This is tragic, and more importantly, my opponent Debbie Murcasel-Powell has done nothing to condemn this new wave of radical anti-Semitism, and she should pay an electoral price for it.

16. In what areas do you think your opponent Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) is weak and has she let your district down?

She has embraced the rise of radical socialism in her own party, been the lap-dog for Nancy Pelosi, and had her campaign funded by Washington insiders and special interests. She represents her party ideology instead of working in unity to bring about positive results for our community and country as a whole.

17. What are the top three issues for voters in your district and how do you plan on addressing those issues? What issues are the most important to you?

My top three issues are the national debt, healthcare, and our environment. The most important, I feel, is the national debt because if we do not address that, there will not be enough financial resources in the world to deal with the other two issues. Strengthening the middle class is a priority. If Americans don’t feel they can make ends meet that allows socialists to tout their entitlement agenda. Once people get on that train it will be too difficult for them to get off of it.

19. What areas of the Republican Party’s platform do you think needs to be addressed, and/or changed?

The Republican Party platform for 2020 is probably in its earliest drafting phase. The last one from 2016 was a great outline of what we hoped to achieve. I am happy that we have been able to deliver on tax cuts and increased funding for our national defenses. However, there is still much work to be done.

20. What do you hope to inspire in other elected officials and future leaders to help make America a better place?

A greater sense of appreciation for this land of the free because of the brave. We can never forget those that gave their lives to free other countries from the peril of socialism and to maintain our independence and freedom. We must above all continue to be a grateful national. With our story as a family and community, I hope to remind Americans what the alternative looks like.

21. How has being a successful business owner prepared you for running for Congress?

It has helped me understand what people are dealing with in their personal lives every day. Another insider deal, another government lobbying team, and another big government idea is not going to help them. What will help them is if we let them keep more of their hard-earned money and keep government out of their way.

22. When you are not working, what do you do for fun?

When you have your own business you don’t get a lot of free time so I value spending time with family. My daughter is my priority. That’s my hobby.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Cuban Business Owner Who Fled Communist Cuba Launches GOP Congressional Bid, Dominates GOP Primary Field In Fundraising