BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- René De La Pedraja has fond memories of Cuba. He left when he was just 11, using a tourist visa to get to the States, and then never returning.
“I think I was more into the revolution than my parents were. I think that was one reason why we left Cuba,” he told News 4.
For years, famous goods of his homeland, rum and cigars, were unattainable for American tourists because of a U.S. embargo against the communist-run nation.
In October, President Obama eased up the Cuban goods ban, but only for personal quantities.
“Now they can actually come from any country. So for example in the Buffalo-Niagara region, if you travel into Canada and happen to purchase certain Cuban goods like cigars or rum, they are now under your exemptions coming back into the United States,” said Chief Officer Aaron Bowker from Customs and Border Protection.
You can now bring up to a liter of Cuban rum and 100 Cuban cigars into the U.S. without paying duties.
“It will certainly help Cuba develop more and expand its tourism, there’s no doubt about it,” De La Pedraja said.
De La Pedraja feels this is another step toward neutralizing relations, something he badly wants.
In 2014 a travel ban from Americans was lifted, however you must schedule a specific tour of Cuba in order to enter the country.
The Cuban native, who is now a professor at Canisius College, was also pleased with President Obama’s allowance of Cuban medicine to enter the U.S, something being taken advantage of right here in Western New York by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
A Cuban lung cancer vaccine is being brought to Roswell for testing.
“We work really closely with the FDA, and that coordination takes place at the border,” Chief Officer Bowker said.
FDA agents work on site at the border as FDA approved pharmaceuticals from Cuba make there way into the country.
De La Pedraja has not yet returned to Cuba since leaving.