``Cuba is the only country involved in a constant war with the strongest power in the world,'' Ricardo Alarcon told a news conference.
Passed unanimously by the Cuban parliament late Tuesday night, the law is aimed largely at independent Cuban journalists, whom the government tends to view as political dissidents.
The Inter American Press Association, whose members include newspaper editors and publishers from around the Americas, sent a letter to President Fidel Castro protesting the law, saying it ``clearly gives legal status to censorship and a ban on reporting.''
The measures would ban the introduction of ``subversive'' materials into the country, along with the importation of equipment designed to disseminate such information.
It also restricts collaboration with the news media if such work furthers the trade embargo or related U.S policy toward Cuba.
The law sets prison sentences of up to 20 years and fines for those accused of crimes that affect ``the fundamental interests, political or economic'' of Cuba.
Many independent Cuban journalists are in regular contact with the U.S. government's Radio Marti, which opposes the Castro government. Others work for news media in the United States and Europe, often producing reports that include criticism of the communist system.
Alarcon suggested that many of those who call themselves independent journalists do so only to obtain money and equipment from organizations that buy their dispatches. ``They are created as journalists or poets simply because someone gives them money,'' he said.
Alarcon said that few countries let their own citizens actively support a foreign power's attempt to cause economic and political harm to their own nation.
He said Mexico, Argentina, several European countries -- even the United States -- have similar laws protecting national sovereignty from foreign meddling.
The crackdown on pro-U.S. dissidence also comes amid a larger effort to set tough new laws and sentences for both common and political criminals.
The move comes a little more than a month after President Clinton announced measures designed to increase contact between the American and Cuban people while maintaining the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
Cuban officials complained that Clinton's proposal did nothing to ease the sanctions.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press