A Miami man described Thursday 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 Secord and his associate Thomas 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.
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 said that earlier 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 "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, said Secord had enlisted his help in assisting the Contras and that he was to be paid $4,000 a month plus a bonus for each shipment of arms he successfully brought through to the Contras. He said he made 16 trips to Central America from January to June 1986.
The prosecution team in the North trial put Quintero on the witness stand after defense attorney Brendan Sullivan said he had no questions on cross-examination for the previous witness, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub.
On Wednesday, Singlaub testified about a series of contacts with North from 1984 to 1986 when Congress had banned U.S. military aid to the Contras.
The government is trying to prove that North lied to Congress about his efforts to help the Contras during the aid ban.
Prosecutors introduced a letter that Singlaub sent to then-CIA Director William Casey a few days before North - then a National Security Council aide - told a House panel he hadn't had any contact with Singlaub for 20 months.
Singlaub's letter to the CIA suggested otherwise, and Singlaub testified that he in fact met with North "maybe six times" from the summer of 1985 to August 1986.