From Roosevelt in a wheelchair to silences on Fidel Castro: when the health of leaders is a state secret (or becomes a political weapon)

New York. For some time there has been talk of the state of health of Vladimir Putin and of a possible illness that he would keep hidden. The latest hypothesis came from the independent Russian media Proekt, which in a long investigation analyzed the list of personal doctors who accompany the “tsar” on his travels, assuming that he suffers from thyroid cancer. On the other hand, since last month, the theses have multiplied on his state of health, from terminal cancer which could have had secondary effects on his mental faculties to Parkinson’s disease, from Long Covid to a serious disorder of the personality.

All guesswork of course, because the life of the Russian president – who turns 70 in October – is shrouded in absolute secrecy and information about his condition has been kept secret since his first term when, as Proekt explains, “the Kremlin began to hide information about the health condition of the then young president even when he fell from his horse, injuring his back.” In history, almost all great leaders have concealed serious health problems , beginning with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, forced to constantly use the wheelchair, but determined to try not to show his disability.In recent years, however, the debate over the health and mental stability of business leaders State and government has become increasingly relevant, even if the path of transparency is not yet chosen everywhere.

Extreme secrecy, for example, has been kept about Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who died aged 90 in 2016 (but was ill for a decade) and his brother Raul, who reportedly left power last year due to a terminal cancer, news of course never confirmed by Havana. While ten years ago it was the Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda who revealed to the world the tumor that was soon to be carried away by the then President Hugo Chávez, hospitalized in the greatest secrecy in the Cuban capital. .

Things are different in the United States – for at least a few decades – where presidents have undergone routine checkups at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Washington and traditionally, since the days of Ronald Reagan, let Americans know of the results. . . Rivers of ink have flowed over the two last tenants of the White House, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, even for the age of the two. If critics of Trump have constantly feared the possibility that his psychological state might not be suitable for the role, on Biden even CNN went so far as to say last December that he seemed “confused” during an interview. And just yesterday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul spoke about the president’s “cognitive decline,” posting a video of a press conference in which he held up a slip of paper with questions from reporters and also the answers he was given. he should have given. In recent years, however, transparency about health conditions has become increasingly important: Trump’s doctor, for example, came under heavy attack for certain omissions in the president’s journey when he was infected with Covid. in 2020. to the illness she suffered while attending the 15th anniversary ceremony in New York of the September 11 attacks, less than two months before the election – took its toll. Americans have never forgiven him for lying about his health.

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