A Miami man today described how Oliver North ran a 1985 meeting that focused on the Contra rebels opening a southern front in their war against the leftist government of Nicaragua.
Rafael Quintero, a Cuban-American who helped coordinate the Contra arms supply effort, testified at the trial of the former White House aide that “basically Mr. North” was in charge of the June 28, 1985, meeting at Miami International Airport.
Also attending the meeting, he said, were Contra leaders Adolfo Calero and Enrique Bermudez as well as retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord and his associate Thomas G. Clines, an ex-CIA official, who were involved in obtaining arms and shipping them to the Contras.
At the meeting, it was North’s suggestion “to open a southern front,” Quintero told a jury in U.S. District Court.
Plan to Cut Supply Line
He added that North also discussed the possibility of sinking a barge to obstruct the Rama River in order to cut off a military supply line that Nicaragua’s Sandinista government was using. Eighty percent of the supplies passed across the river, Quintero said.
Quintero also testified he once heard North say that President Reagan backed the clandestine effort to resupply the Contras.
This was, Quintero said, at a 1986 meeting in El Salvador when a high Salvadoran official tried to get a commitment for continued aid. “This high official was not going to stick his neck out and have it cut off,” Quintero said.
“Mr. North pointed out the President was very much aware of the efforts this high Salvadoran official was doing, that the President wanted these efforts to continue” he added in broken English.
‘Little Man From South’
Further, Quintero testified, North told the Salvadoran that when aid resumed legally--as it did in October, 1986--that the Salvadoran’s position would become “much easier than now.”
Quintero said that in 1985 he returned from an inspection tour of Contra operations in Central America. While in the Vienna, Va., offices of Secord, the retired general telephoned North, telling him that “the little man from the south just came back” with a report, Quintero testified.
Quintero, a veteran of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba who did work for the CIA, said that Secord had enlisted his help in assisting the Contras and that he was paid about $228,000 over two years for his efforts, including expenses.