President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.

“The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks negotiated with the help of Pope Francis, which produced a prisoner swap and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro.”

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