MEXICO CITY - The Cuban government has denounced the growing number of independent journalists on the island, indicating it has been patient but reserves the right "to defend and guarantee its national soveriegnty."
In an article published Saturday by Granma International, the weekly international version of the Communist Party organ Granma, the Cuban government said independent journalists are "instruments trying to destroy Cuba's social and political gains and snatch away the island's independence."
The article was carried by Cuba's official Prensa Latina news agency, monitored in Mexico City.
The attack alarmed independent journalists in Cuba, who said they feared a crackdown.
"My personal impression is that they are trying to prepare international opinion for a repressive wave designed to eliminate independent journalism in Cuba," Raul Rivero, president of Cuba Press, said Sunday in a telehpone interview from Havana. "I think they want to jail us all."
Granma Internacional said Cuban authorities have not stopped the journalists from taling with broadcasters in the United States.
"Although the 'independent journalists' are acting against the Cuban nation, authorities have acted properly based on strict respect for their personal integrity," the article said.
However, the article said Cuba reserves "every right to adopt measures or actions necessary to defend and guarantee its national sovereignty."
Another prominent independent journalist, Rafael Solano, was freed April 8 after more than a month in jail. Solano, director of the HavanaPress news agency, was arrested Feb. 27 and charged with criminal association, which carries a possible three-year sentence.
The charge remains in force, though no trial date has been announced.
Rivero said Solano, who has been arrested six times in the past 11 months, has obtained a Spanish visa and plans to leave the country as soon as he gets Cuban government approval.
The government began cracking down in February after the dissident coalition Concilio Cubano tried to hold a national convention.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued an open letter to President Fidel Castro this month, uring him to close the case against Solano.
In March, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), which represents newspapers throughout the hemisphere, decried the crackdown as "the largest offensive against independent journalists so far in the 1990s."
The Granma International article criticized the IAPA and other unnamed groups for "orchestrating a worldwide campaign...to accuse Cuba of persecuting and massive detentions of journalists."
It questioned the IAPA's independence and called it an "instrument of North American imperialism born during the days of the Cold War."
IAPA President David Lawrence Jr., also publisher of The Herald, issued a brief response Sunday.
"The IAPA is simply saying what is basic to free people anywhere: The people have an absolute right to free expression and a free press," Lawrence said.