Balsemão, Francisco

(1937- )
   Lawyer, journalist, publisher, political leader, and media magnate. From a wealthy, well-connected family, Balsemão was educated as an attorney at the Law Faculty, University of Lisbon, like so many of his country's leaders in modern times. He began to practice law and write for newspapers in the early 1960s. In the 1969 general elections, he entered politics as a leader in the "liberal wing" of the regime's sole political party or movement, the Acção Nacional Popular, successor of the União Nacional. Soon discouraged by the failure of reform efforts, he resigned his seat in the National Assembly during the last years of Marcello Caetano's governance. In January 1973, he began publishing and editing a new newspaper, the independent Lisbon weekly Expresso, whose modern format, spirit, reform ideas, and muted criticism of the regime attracted much public interest.
   As part of a new wave of more liberal urban opinion among the better-educated classes, Balsemao's influential weekly paper helped prepare public opinion for change and for "an opening" in a closed system while Portugal moved toward revolutionary times, 1974-75. Expresso took as its models contemporary French and British investigative journalism, adapted to Portugal, and the paper was instrumental in promoting the colonial war hero General Antônio Spínola as a new leader who could solve the political impasse. The paper also featured excerpts from General Spinola's sensational book on Portugal's future and the wars in Africa, published in February 1974. Expresso thus helped prepare Portuguese public opinion for the military's intervention in the coup that brought about the Revolution of 25 April 1974. Following 1974, Balsemão became a leader in the Social Democratic Party (PSD). After the sudden death of the PSD leader, Sá Carneiro, in a mysterious air crash in 1980, Balsemão became PSD leader and served as prime minister from January 1981 to June 1983. In the 1990s, he helped finance and launch one of Portugal's first private television channels.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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