Members of the Organization of American States have chosen former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez as the body's next secretary general.

The 34 nations that comprise the OAS unanimously elected Mr. Rodriguez at a gathering in Quito, Ecuador. The economist, 64, who governed Costa Rica from 1998 to 2002, replaces outgoing Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, who has headed the OAS for nearly 10 years.

In a speech after the vote, Mr. Rodriguez described much of the Americas as a region of unfulfilled dreams and bitter frustrations, where poverty, hunger, illiteracy, violence and a lack of opportunity plague millions of people. He said the situation must be confronted with speed and precision.

Economic topics concerning the Americas were also discussed in Washington Monday. Argentina's Secretary for Trade and International Economic Relations, Martin Redrado, said much of Latin America is sinking in debt and lacking in trade and commerce. Mr. Redrado spoke at the Inter-American Development Bank.

"The reality is that Latin America exports very little, and we owe too much," he said. "If we look at the debt-to-export ratio, with the exception of Mexico and Chile, we have ratios of at least one-to-three, one-to-four. That is to say, for $1 of exports, we are owing $3, $4 or $5. This reality needs to change."

Mr. Redrado urged countries to pursue expanded trade without any ideological constraints. To that end, he suggested that Latin American nations avoid fixed exchange rates that can lead to over-valued currencies and hinder exports. In addition, he called for implementing sound fiscal policies that can endure, even when governments change, and forming public-private sector alliances to prepare economic sectors to compete internationally, and to promote goods abroad.