WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced a move to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba on Wednesday, saying it is time to "cut loose the shackles of the past."
In a speech at the White House, Obama said the thaw in relations after a five-decade freeze is being made after he determined the "rigid" and outdated policy of the past failed to have an impact on Cuba.
"Today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future, for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world," he said.
He said the new policy will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. Obama said he would also talk to members of the U.S. Congress about lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
Pope Francis assisted in the thaw in relations by pressing for the release of American aid worker Alan Gross from Cuba, the president said.
Obama thanked Canada for the role it played in hosting U.S.-Cuban discussions.
Reporting By Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason; Editing by Krista Hughes