By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local chef with ties to Cuba reacted with undisguised astonishment today to President Obama’s announcement that the United States is moving to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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In anticipation of Obama’s speech on Cuba, we invited chef Guillermo Pernot of Cuba Libre restaurant, in Old City, to watch the speech in our newsroom.

“Wow! They’re gonna open the embassy again,” he said with apparent awe as the president’s remarks unfolded.

(In a national address, President Obama speaks about normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba.  Photo by Doug Mills- Pool/ Getty Images)

(In a national address, President Obama speaks about normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Photo by Doug Mills- Pool/ Getty Images)

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Pernot, who is Argentine and whose wife is from Cuba, had traveled many times to that Caribbean island nation, bringing chefs to the United States to host specialty Cuban dinners.  He notes that US sanctions against Cuba have had profound effects there.

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“You have to see the poverty that these people lived through and everything that they suffered, with no reason whatsoever,” he recalls.  “It wasn’t their fault.”

And he says the announcement to restore diplomatic relationships is: “Huge! This is like the falling of the Berlin wall!  It was the same.  It’s huge!”

Pernot was clearly emotional as he absorbed the news.

“I mean, this had to end, and I thought I would never see it, so it’s one less thing for the bucket list.  It’s great!” he said.

 

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