The leader of Paraguay arrived Friday for a three-day visit to Kansas. He toured a KU library and met with exchange students from Paraguay.
President Juan Carlos Wasmosy of Paraguay came Friday to Lawrence on a mission to erase the image many Americans have of his country.
Wasmosy, president since August 1993, wants U.S. citizens to know Paraguay is developing a tradition of democracy. Social, economic and political problems neglected during the 35-year dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner -- who was ousted in 1989 -- are being addressed in an atmosphere of free expression and tolerance.
"There is a new Paraguay today," he said through an interpreter during an interview at Kansas University. "There's democracy. There's liberty, freedom."
Since Stroessner's departure, there have been two relatively free presidential elections, and a decentralized constitution has been adopted.
Wasmosy said U.S. investors should consider Paraguay a potentially lucrative market.
"We have the most open economy in Latin America," he said. "We have a lot of potential for investment."
The president came to the United States to join the world's leaders at the 50th anniversary celebration of the United Nations in New York.
Wasmosy is scheduled to remain in Kansas until Sunday.
On Friday, he urged the 32 Paraguayan exchange students attending KU to return to their homeland after graduation to help build a better Paraguay. An educated work force is necessary to implement reform in areas of society neglected for decades, he said.
"That's a very important element," he said after meeting with students in the Kansas Union.
Wasmosy has a degree in civil engineering and has been a faculty member at the National University of Asuncion.
Also on Friday, the president met with Gov. Bill Graves for about an hour to exchange views on agriculture.
``They talked about the thing that Kansas and Paraguay have in common -- agriculture production,'' said Mike Matson, Graves' press secretary.
In part, Wasmosy was drawn to Kansas because of a Kansas-Paraguay Partners program. The sister-state relationship, started in 1967, fosters exchange of information about education, politics, agriculture and other areas.
About 25 faculty from KU and Kansas State University have traveled to Paraguay to work on projects.
Wasmosy plans to visit the Kansas State campus and attend today's KSU-KU football game in Manhattan. It will be his first glimpse of live college football.
"I'm a soccer fan," said Wasmosy, a once-stellar basketball player. "Yes, but that was 40 pounds ago."