Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said the encounters began when she was young and happened several times throughout her life.
Several years before the 59-year-old announced her candidacy to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), she appeared on Spanish-language television programs and talked in great detail about her experiences with aliens.
In one video that was uploaded to YouTube long before it was highlighted by the Herald, Rodriguez Aguilera, a Republican, said she saw the round spaceship for the first time when she was 7, after her parents asked her to go outside their home.
She boarded the spaceship, she said, and saw round seats.
After the vessel took off, she said, aliens explained to her what they planned to do.
“God is a universal energy, not a person,” the aliens told her, according to Rodriguez Aguilera. “It’s in everything. God talks to people and they understand it in different ways, but there’s only one religion.”
In another interview, she said the beings, with their arms wide open, reminded her of Jesus Christ, and that she saw them again during her teenage years.
She also claimed that the center of energy is in Africa; that 30,000 skulls different from human skulls are in a subterranean cave on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean; and that Coral Castle, a limestone structure in South Florida, is an ancient pyramid.
The aliens talked about Isis, Rodriguez Aguilera said, though she did not elaborate. Isis is the name of an Egyptian goddess. (It’s also an acronym for the Islamic State, which did not exist at the time of Rodriguez Aguilera’s interviews.)
Rodriguez Aguilera said the interviews happened eight years ago and were negatively portrayed by the Miami Herald.
“The Miami Herald article is clearly an attack piece,” she told The Washington Post, adding later: “I’m a person who owns up to who I am. And this is just an experience that I had. It has nothing to do with who I am and what I have shown in the past 40 years and what a positive role model I’ve been to the community.”
Asked why she decided to talk about her experiences publicly, she said, “The conditions were there and I just did it . . . They were going to do the interview, and I did the interview.”
In a statement to the Herald, she said:
For years people, including Presidents like Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and astronauts have publicly claimed to have seen unidentified flying objects and scientists like Stephen Hawking and institutions like the Vatican have stated that there are billions of galaxies in the universe and we are probably not alone. I personally am a Christian and have a strong belief in God, I join the majority of Americans who believe that there must be intelligent life in the billions of planets and galaxies in the universe.
Ros-Lehtinen, whom Rodriguez Aguilera hopes to replace, represents much of Miami and Miami Beach. The moderate Republican and the first Hispanic woman and Cuban American elected to Congress, announced in April that she is retiring, giving Democrats a chance to flip a seat in a district Hillary Clinton carried in November.
The former Doral City Council member announced her intention to run in August.
“I have lived in the district most of my life. I believe I can give back. I’ve proven that I can create jobs, which is, I think, the most important thing the district needs,” Rodriguez Aguilera said. “I am a person that has spent all my life fighting for human rights.”
In 2014, she sponsored a human-trafficking ordinance after two massage parlors were shut down for prostitution.
Rick Yabor, a Miami lawyer and political commentator, told The Post that Rodriguez Aguilera isn’t likely to win — especially in light of revelations about her previous claims.
“Why Bettina jumped in that race, I don’t know. … Her views are not very mainstream,” Yabor said, referring to Rodriguez Aguilera’s stories about aliens. “There’s going to be people that believe her, and there’s going to be people that think she’s wacky.”
And anyway, Yabor said, the district leaned Democratic in last year’s election.
There are at least a dozen candidates vying to replace Ros-Lehtinen, the majority of them Democrats.
Two of Rodriguez Aguilera’s Republican primary opponents, Bruno Barreiro and Raquel Regalado, are better known in Miami-Dade County than she is, Yabor said.
Barreiro has been a county commissioner for nearly 20 years. Regalado is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado and is a former school board member in the county.
And they have raised significantly more money than Rodriguez Aguilera.
Barreiro has raised about $218,100, according to federal campaign records. Regalado is a distant second, with $15,050. Rodriguez Aguilera has raised less than $5,000.
Rodriguez Aguilera said she has not raised much because she postponed her fundraising after Hurricane Irma hit to help Florida residents. She said she’s raised a total of $10,000, including “in-kind services” from the community.
Rodriguez Aguilera was a member of the Doral City Council from 2012 to 2014. The city’s mayor nominated her to replace the vice mayor in 2013. She also said she helped boost Doral’s economic and population growth during her time as the city’s economic development coordinator, a position she held for four years.
Her campaign website describes her as an “entrepreneur, educator and community leader” with “over 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors.”
In 2015, Miami Dade College launched its Women’s Institute, which offered a women’s studies program developed in partnership with Rodriguez Aguilera, the South Florida Times reported.
Rodriguez Aguilera’s daughter, Bettina Inclán Agen, is a former director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee. Agen is married to Jarrod Agen, Vice President Pence’s deputy chief of staff and communications director.
Nick Miroff contributed to this report.