Rafael (Chi Chi) Quintero was born in Cuba on 16th September 1940. As a young student he joined the underground resistance and went to the Sierra Maestra to join Fidel Castro just 72 hours before the triumph of the revolution.
In 1959 Manuel Artime emerged as a leading anti-Communist in Cuba. He worked closely with the Catholic University Association (CUA). Later that year he moved to the Manzanillo region where he joined up with Carlos Prio and Tony Varona. Quintero, who had become disillusioned with the new Cuban government, joined Artime in his struggle against Castro.
According to Fabian Escalante (CIA Covert Operations: 1959-62) Artime's rebellion was organized by Frank Sturgis and the Central Intelligence Agency. On 21st October, 1959, Artime arranged for Sturgis, flying a CIA plane, to drop thousands of leaflets over Havana, calling for the population to rise up against the revolution. When this did not happen, Artime fled from the country with a "hundred thousand pesos of funds under his control". The following month Quintero moved to the United States.
Along with Manuel Artime, Tony Varona, Aureliano Arango and Jose Cardona, Quintero established the Movement for the Recovery of the Revolution (MRR Party). Quintero also joined Operation 40. One member, Frank Sturgis, claimed "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents... We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time."
In an article published in the The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (2008) Don Bohning, a CIA asset (code-name AMCARBON-3) insists that Quintero was never a member of Operation 40. He adds that Quintero "is among those who expressed concern because of the vast files of information the group collected on the Cuban community and the potential for blackmail with that information."
Other anti-Castro Cubans who became members of Operation 40 included Antonio Veciana, Luis Posada, Orlando Bosch, Roland Masferrer, Eladio del Valle, Guillermo Novo, Rafael Villaverde, Carlos Bringuier, Eugenio Martinez, Antonio Cuesta, Hermino Diaz Garcia, Barry Seal, Felix Rodriguez, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Juan Manuel Salvat, Isidro Borjas, Virgilio Paz, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Felipe Rivero, Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo, Nazario Sargent, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Jose Basulto, and Paulino Sierra.
Quintero was smuggled back into Cuba in 1961 but was arrested just before the Bay of Pigs invasion. He expected to be executed by suprisingly he was released and was allowed to return to the United States. By 1962 Quintero was serving as deputy leader of the MRR under the leadership of Manuel Artime.
In 1963 Manuel Artime obtained funds from the CIA via Ted Shackley head of the JM/WAVE station in Florida. Artime, Quintero and Felix Rodriguez moved to Nicaragua where they formed a 300 man army. They also covertly acquired arms, supplies and boats for an invasion of Cuba. According to David Corn (Blond Ghost): "The CIA trained Artime's men as Artime pulled together a small navy, obtained several planes, and collected over 200 tons of American-made arms. The CIA budget for Artime's war would come to total $7 million." The invasion of Cuba never took place. After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson cancelled what had become known as the Second Naval Guerrilla operation.
In 1966 Ted Shackley was placed in charge of the CIA secret war in Laos. He appointed Thomas G. Clines as his deputy. He also took Rafael Quintero, Carl E. Jenkins, David Sanchez Morales, Rafael Quintero, Rafael Villaverde, Felix I. Rodriguez and Edwin Wilson with him to Laos.
According to Joel Bainerman (Crimes of a President) it was at this point that Shackley and his "Secret Team" became involved in the drug trade. They did this via General Vang Pao, the leader of the anti-communist forces in Laos. Vang Pao was a major figure in the opium trade in Laos. To help him Shackley used his CIA officials and assets to sabotage the competitors. Eventually Vang Pao had a monopoly over the country's heroin trade. In 1967 Shackley and Clines helped Vang Pao to obtain financial backing to form his own airline, Zieng Khouang Air Transport Company, to transport opium and heroin between Long Tieng and Vientiane.
In 1976 Quintero was recruited by CIA agent, Edwin Wilson, to kill a Libyan dissident in Egypt. Quintero selected two brothers, Raoul and Rafael Villaverde, to carry out the killing. Four days before the assassination of Orlando Letelier, the Villaverde brothers returned to the United States. On 21st September, the day that Letelier was killed, Wilson phoned Quintero in Miami to call off the operation.
Quintero was then recruited by Thomas G. Clines. This included helping Anastasio Somoza to develop a counter-subversion program in Nicaragua. When this program came to an end, Quintero joined with Clines and Ricardo Chavez to establish API Distributors.
In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.
Gene Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Tom Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro. Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.
On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information on two Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Raphael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez as the two Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus. It gradually emerged that Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.
On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Tom Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Raphael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim.
It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit. It was eventually discovered that President Ronald Reagan had sold arms to Iran. The money gained from these sales was used to provide support for the Contras, a group of guerrillas engaged in an insurgency against the elected socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Both the sale of these weapons and the funding of the Contras violated administration policy as well as legislation passed by Congress.On 23rd June, 1988, Judge James L. King ruled that Sheehan's allegations were "based on unsubstantiated rumor and speculation from unidentified sources with no firsthand knowledge". In February, 1989, Judge King ruled that Sheenan had brought a frivolous lawsuit and ordered his Christic Institute to pay the defendants $955,000. This was one of the highest sanction orders in history and represented four times the total assets of the Christic Institute.
John Simkin attempted to contact Quintero via his close friend Don Bohning. Quintero refused to be interviewed but he did say that Gene Wheaton was telling the truth as "he knew it". His explanation of Wheaton's story was that he and Carl Jenkins had been lying to him when they said they were involved in the assassination. However, Quintero was once quoted as saying: “If I were ever granted immunity, and compelled to testify about past actions, about Dallas and the Bay of Pigs, it would be the biggest scandal ever to rock the United States.”
In an article published in Granma on 15th January, 2006, the journalists Reinaldo Taladrid and Lazaro Baredo argued that “Another of Bush’s recruits for the Bay of Pigs invasion, Rafael Quintero, who was also part of this underworld of organizations and conspiracies against Cuba, stated: If I was to tell what I know about Dallas and the Bay of Pigs, it would be the greatest scandal that has ever rocked the nation."
Rafael Quintero suffered from poor health. For several years he had been on dialysis three hours a day, three days a week. An earlier kidney transplant had been unsuccessful. A second transplant took place in May in Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Medical Center. He returned to Miami but the second kidney transplant was also unsuccessful and in July he returned to Baltimore where he died on 1st October, 2006.