Dictators Who Kept Their Dire Health Scares Secret From Their Countries

By | October 7, 2020

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(Warren K. Leffler/Wikimedia Commons)

Whether they're ruthless warlords or seemingly benevolent monochrome jumpsuit enthusiasts, all dictators want to be seen as invincible, but that's just not the way life goes. Illness and death are equally as certain as a dictator's belief in his own mortality. In fact, to hear them tell it, some of these dictators who kept their illnesses secret might still be alive.

No One Knows What Killed Fidel Castro

Few dictators have carried on as lengthy of an illness shell game as Fidel Castro. Until his death, the imposing military leader gave misleading answers about his health, even when he was clearly not well. Even his personal physician claimed that he could live as long as 140 years old, but he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in 2006 before disappearing from view four years. The Cuban government has never confirmed Castro's condition, but it's believed that he was dealing with complications related to diverticulitis, an intestinal ailment common in the elderly. In a 2010 interview, Castro opened up about his health, but even that response is cagey:

I was at death's door, but I came back. Laid out in that bed, I could only see what was around me, machines I did not understand. I didn't know how long this torment would continue. The only thing I could hope for was that the world would stop. But I recovered.

He passed away six years later, and his cause of death has never been disclosed.

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(World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons)

Or Meles Zenawi

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi passed away in 2012, it came as a shock to everyone on the world stage. He allegedly suffered from a stomach illness for quite some time and disappeared from the public weeks before he passed away, but all we really know is that he had an infection of some kind and died in a hospital in Brussels.