Business owner featured in Marco Rubio ad previously arrested for soliciting prostitute


A company president featured prominently in an ad for US Sen. At Marco Rubio’s campaign has a criminal record.

Silvino Barragan, President of Diego’s Taqueria & Margaritas Bar, did not contest in 2001 a charge solicit or recruit a prostitute. After the Panama City man pleaded against the misdemeanor charge, judgment on the case was stayed. Less than three months after an initial appearance on June 28, 2001, Barragan paid $297 in court.

Years later, Barragan in 2013 incorporated that of Diego. The company has developed a local clientele in a few years, according to the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce. The restaurant now has two locations in Panama City Beach.

As the restaurant business was pilloried by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the business was among many Florida businesses to apply for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. A search through a ProPublica the recipient database shows the company received $256,080 which was canceled in 2021.

It should be noted that state business records also show that Barragan open Cheo’s Latin Kitchen food truck shortly after loan withdrawal.

Rubio played a key role in shaping the Paycheck Protection Program, and he has touted the federal response as he seeks a third term in the Senate. He faces a challenge this year from the US Representative. Val Demingscongressman from Orlando and Democratic candidate for the Senate.

His campaign rejected attempts to tar individuals helped by the Paycheck Protection Program.

“The Democrats will do anything to distract from Marco Rubio’s results record since their candidate Val Demings has accomplished nothing in Washington,” said Elisabeth GregoireRubio campaign spokesperson.

“The jobs of the three Florida women featured in this ad were saved because Rubio’s Paycheck Protection Program did exactly what it was designed to do: protect their paychecks, and any innuendo that wasn’t not a good cause is dishonest and politically motivated.”

Efforts have included highlighting positive business stories. The “Diego’s” ad was out this month and focuses exclusively on taking over the Panama City Beach restaurant.

The Rubio ad notably does not show Barragan. Instead, it features testimonials from waitresses working at Diego.

‘If it wasn’t for Senator Rubio, I might not even have a job,’ says waitress lauren in a testimony.

“It was nice to know we had someone like Senator Rubio watching over us,” the waitress says Horrible.

The purpose of the PPP loans was to prevent layoffs at a time when many businesses could not stay open. In Florida, in-person dining was banned or severely restricted for much of the year in 2020 after the coronavirus first emerged in the state thanks to a safer ordering at home government issued Ron DeSantis.

A message sent via Facebook to Barragan received no response. When a call was made to a phone number listed for Barragan, a man hung up when the caller identified himself as a Florida Politics reporter.

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