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US Begins Dealing with New Ecuador Government

The United States has begun official dealings with Ecuador's new government of President Alfredo Palacio, which took office last week after the ouster of Lucio Gutierrez. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began a Latin American trip that will include talks on the situation in Ecuador.

The United States had been reluctant to embrace the new Ecuador government, while the Organization of American States was examining the constitutionality of the vote by the country's Congress that unseated Mr. Gutierrez.

But a senior U.S. diplomat, flying with Secretary Rice to Brazil, said the United States has "effectively recognized" the new government, and that late Monday U.S. Ambassador to Quito Kristie Kenney began the official dialogue in a meeting with President Palacio.

The ouster of the former president, who went into exile Sunday in Brazil, was the third upheaval of its kind in Ecuador in eight years, and it followed similar political turmoil in Bolivia in 2003.

But in an airborne news conference, Secretary Rice said she did not believe those events signal a trend toward the unraveling of democratic gains in Latin America.

She said they do show the fragility of young democracies buffeted by economic and other problems, and that changes in government under those circumstances can be expected.

"One should not be concerned when there are changes of government," she said. "We can work with governments across the political spectrum. That is not the issue. We are concerned that constitutional processes be preserved. And we and others are looking to discussions with, and in fact are having consultations with many in Ecuador to try and establish, and make certain that a constitutional path is in fact established, and we will see what proceeds from that. But at this point, the key is to make certain that the Ecuadorean people understand that the OAS, the United States, all of the members of the OAS support a constitutional path."

Ms. Rice said the unrest in Ecuador underlines the need to end the impasse within the Organization of American States over selection of its next secretary-general.

The United States has supported the candidacy of Mexico's Foreign Minister Ernesto Derbez.

But Ms. Rice said his rival for the post, Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, is also a "fine man," and that what is important is that the 34-nation organization emerge from the selection process soon, and "without a sense of division."

The secretary stressed the Bush administration's good relations with the left-leaning Brazilian government of President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, with whom she has talks late Tuesday.

She will deliver the main policy address of her Latin American trip Wednesday in Brasilia, before flying on to Colombia for meetings with President Alvaro Uribe.

She will attend a meeting of the Community of Democracies Thursday and Friday in the Chile's capital, Santiago, before concluding the trip with a stop in El Salvador.