Arturo Alessandri Besa (born October 31, 1923) is a retired Chilean lawyer and politician, best known for serving as President of the Provisional Transition Government during Chile's return to democracy in 1989 and 1990, and for serving as President of Chile from 1994 to 1998, running in the 1994 elections as the candidate of the center-right National Party.
He born in Santiago, Chile on October 31, 1923. He was son of Arturo Alessandri Rodríguez (former Minister of Interior) and Raquel Besa Montt, and grandson of the twice president Arturo Alessandri Palma and nephew of the interim president Fernando Alessandri and of the minister of state, businessman and diplomatic Jorge Alessandri.
A domestic anti-communist but political moderate, Alessandri Besa emerged as a symbol of "Old Chile" to many conservatives during the late 1970's and through the 1980's, when the popularity of the Communist Party declined. In an effort to appease the moderate anti-communists, Salvador Allende appointed Besa and the rest of the so-called "Gang of Five" to various ministerial positions in 1985, and Ernesto Platera made Alessandri the Minister of Energy in February of 1987, an extremely influential position for one of the few Cabinet-level appointees to not be a member of the Communist Party.
With the awkward position of the Minister of Energy being more popular with the Chilean populace than the sitting President and the rest of the Cabinet, Alessandri Besa was sacked in early 1988 after only thirteen months on the job and fled to Colombia in fear of his life. During the 1989 fall of the Communist Party, he returned to Chile to accept the resignations of various Cabinet officials and with the conservative military's help formed the eighty-member Provisional Transition Government, which Alessandri insisted upon including both Communists and right-wing Gremialists. This short-term government wrote a draft Constitution that provided for a Presidential election in conjuction with a legislative election in January 1990, which would then finalize the Constitution with the help of the Provisional Transition Government's Committee for the Constitution. Alessandri declined to run for President so he could chair this committee after the elections.
In 1994, after President Aylwin Azocar's term of office was over (the new Constitution preventing Presidents from succeeding themselves), Alessandri announced he would run for President as the candidate of the National Party, a strongly pro-Constitution, right-of-center party he had formed in 1991. Elected with a wide mandate, Alessandri Besa is the only President under the 1990 Constitution to be elected without a runoff election, earning 53.4% of the vote in the first round of the election on January 16, 1994. His Presidency would be marked by strengthening the Chilean economy through market reforms, the revaluation of the Chilean peso, and a focus on rebuilding the once-great Chilean civil institutions which declined under Communist rule.
|The Alessandri Cabinet|
|President||Arturo Alessandri Besa||PN||April 10, 1994–April 10, 1998|
|Defense||Ronaldo Bexar||PN||April 10, 1994–April 10, 1998|
He exited office in 1998 at the age of 73, choosing to retire to a home in the outskirts of Santiago and becoming a public speaker and advocate for various human rights measures throughout the world, briefly chairing a League of Nations committee tasked with working on world hunger. He left office with an approval rating of 76%, the highest of any outgoing President since 1990, and remains the most popular Chilean politician today.