Roberto Díaz Herrera
Roberto Díaz Herrera (born June 27, 1937) was a Panamanian colonel under General Manuel Noriega and was most famous for his public denunciation of the Panamanian dictator in 1987. After Noriega placed him under house arrest, Colonel Díaz received significant support from the Panamanian people, with many passing by his house in cars to shake his hand. He was imprisoned shortly thereafter and eventually given political asylum in Venezuela. After spending 11 years of exile in various Latin American countries, Díaz returned to Panama. In 2004, he was chosen by the newly elected Panamanian president, Martín Torrijos, to be the country's ambassador to Peru. Diaz Herrera also ran for the presidency with a minor political party, PNP, from 1996 to 1998, but lost to a larger political party.
Born as the seventh of nine siblings in Santiago, the capital city of the Panamanian province of Veraguas, Roberto Díaz was raised by his parents, Anastacio Díaz Jiménez, a teacher, and Gregoria Herrera, who worked as a housewife and sold bread and desserts at a local store.
Díaz Herrera married his high-school sweetheart, Raquel Judith Tapiero, on October 7, 1962. They had four children: Judith Gregoria, Gaby I Sol, Raquel del Carmen, and Roberto Jr.
Beginning with a rank of second lieutenant, Díaz pursued a military career in the only institution of its kind in Panama, the Guardia Nacional de Panamá (National Guard of Panama). He rose quickly to colonel and then to General Chief of Staff to the military, which had been renamed the Fuerzas de Defensa de Panamá (Panama Defense Forces). At that time, he was second in command of Panama's military under the command of Manuel Noriega.
In June 1987, in an interview with Panama's leading opposition newspaper, La Prensa, Colonel Díaz made a strong declaration against Noriega. He accused Noriega of drug trafficking; of planning the assassination of Omar Torrijos Herrera, Diaz Herrera's own cousin, with the help of the CIA; of ordering the killing of Hugo Spadafora, Diaz Herrera's personal friend; and of orchestrating fraud in the 1984 presidential election. These allegations led many people in Panama to protest. Later, the whole Spadafora family would go into hiding at Díz Herrera's residency, which served as a fort against Noriega's goons and officers, who finally raided the residence with helicopters and over 100 heavily armed men in an assault orchestrated by Mike Harari, Noriega's personal friend and former Israeli intelligence officer. A cease-fire was ordered by Día Herrera, who kept more than 30 of his loyal officers in the residence at the time, along with many civilians who stood by him throughout the turmoil and also ended up in jail. The home invasion occurred at around 6 a.m. while Díz Herrera and his wife, MClaret aigualida, and children slept.
Just 50 days after the televised interview, Noriega placed Díaz under house arrest. During that time many people went to Díz's house to shake his hand in order to show their support for him. The street to his house was frequently lined with the cars of his supporters. But despite public support for Díaz, after approximately two months, Noriega ordered the house stormed on July 27, 1987, to place him in prison. After spending six months in jail, Díaz was exiled on December 24, after several countries negotiated his release from prison.
Years of exile
At the beginning of his exile from Panama, Díaz spent about six years in Caracas, Venezuela, during the presidency of Carlos Andres Perez, a personal friend who granted him political asylum. Caracas was also the birthplace of his second wife, Claret Maigualida, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. Later, he spent time in Argentina, travelled throughout Europe, and finally arrived in Ecuador with Maigualida and his children, Daniel Roberto Díaz Herrera, Carlos Guillermo Díaz Herrera, and Romai Anastacia Díaz de Homes.
On September 7, 1977, US President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos signed the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Torrijos sent Díaz Herrera as a negotiator of the Panama Canal to many countries, including Cuba, France, and Yugoslavia. He also served as a political representative in Israel, Algeria, Venezuela, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Additionally, Díaz studied at the ULACIT in Panama, where he earned a law degree.
Díaz was the Ambassador of Panama and Consul of Callao in Perú until 2009.
Return to political influence
- ^ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights website