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The summit of North American leaders, held in Mexico, has come to an end

DWANE BROWN, HOST:

The summit of North American leaders has come to an end in Mexico. It was a meeting between the leaders of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. But all eyes were on President Biden and his Mexican counterpart, whose initial meetings were awkward, to say the least. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Right before their bilateral talk on Monday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador showered President Biden with compliments and then said that Biden could make Simon Bolivar's dream of a united continent a reality.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Through interpreter) President Biden, you have the key to better the relationships between all of the countries on the American continent.

PERALTA: Obrador styles himself a leftist. So inviting an American president into the fraternity of revolutionary Latin American leaders should have been a compliment. But Biden instead insisted the U.S. has responsibilities beyond the Western Hemisphere.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's in Central Europe. It's in Asia, in the Middle East. It's in Africa. It's in south - West Asia.

PERALTA: To Rafael Fernandez de Castro, who studies U.S.-Mexico relations at UC Davis, Biden wanted to distance himself from Simon Bolivar, a figure used by authoritarian regimes in Venezuela. But what Lopez Obrador was doing, he says, was trying to bring the U.S. closer to Latin America. It backfired. But Fernandez de Castro says, ultimately, the Mexican president chose the benefits of siding with North America.

RAFAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO: He feels Latin America. But he understands that Mexico is in the economic sphere of North America.

PERALTA: Indeed, the big takeaway from this conference was the creation of a task force to bolster nearshoring, or the production of everything from computer chips to vehicles in the U.S., Mexico and Canada in order to cut dependence from China. By the time the final press conference came around, Lopez Obrador had nothing but praise for President Biden. Unlike others, he said, Biden has been humane with Mexicans and migrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOPEZ OBRADOR: You are the first U.S. president in a long time not to build a single meter of border wall.

PERALTA: Fernandez de Castro, the professor, says the tone was surprising for a president known for his recalcitrance and who delayed recognizing Biden after his electoral win.

DE CASTRO: The personal relationship of Biden and Lopez Obrador is signaling going a full circle.

PERALTA: What was once distant, he says, is now warm and amicable.

Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEVON REA AND FNONOSE'S "CANDLELIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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