CUBA The situation of the Cuban alternative press has remained unchanged in this period. There are sporadic and selective arrests. Since March 1999, when Law 88 - known as the gag law - went into effect, there have been no mass arrests of journalists but the authorities have been keeping a constant close watch on the activities of independent journalists. Currently, the following journalists are in jail: Bernardo Arevalo Padron, in Ariza prison, Cienfiegos province, sentenced to six years' imprisonment for contempt of President Fidel Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage. Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez, sentenced to four years on a charge of criminal "endangerment," in Canaleta prison, Ciego de Avila. Manuel Gonzalez Castellanos and Leonardo Varona, sentenced to 2-1/2 years for contempt of President Fidel Castro, in El Tipico prison, Holguin province. The most notorious incident in recent times occurred on September 24 this year in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, when journalist Santiago Santana was arrested by Political Police agents while on his way to attend mass at the provincial cathedral. At the time of his arrest his tape recorder and camera were seized. At around the same date, over a period of several hours, journalists Osvaldo de Cespedes, Pablo Polanco and Maria del Carmen Carro were also arrested. Others have been confronted by police in the street or in their home and threatened with action under Law 88. In fact, although the law is in effect it has not been applied to anyone yet. Correspondents' local and international telephone calls continue to be cut off. Currently 20 small news agencies are operating in the country, consisting of about a hundred journalists, stringers and interns. This figure was obtained from research conducted by journalist Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso directly with the agencies' editors. Despite the proliferation of specialist agencies in the provinces, following enactment of Law 88 some two dozen correspondents have left Cuba or applied for permission to do so. Among them are some who had played a leading role in the alternative press. The Cuban government in August denied journalist Raul Rivero permission to leave the country to go to New York to receive a Maria Moors Cabot Award from Columbia University. In the first six months of the year, the situation of independent journalists was similar to what it was just before and after the visit to Cuba of Pope John Paul II in 1998, when there was an air of tolerance with a less overt police presence and a sharp reduction in arrests and harassment. There was, in fact, what might be termed selective repression against some journalists, such as Lorenzo Paez Nunez, who works in Artemisa, about 36 miles west of Havana. Paez Nunez, who had served an 18- month term for disseminating false news, was frequently harassed by local authorities, and was threatened with application of Law 88. Jesus Labrador Arias, in the province of Manzanillo, 540 miles east of Havana, also was threatened. Two journalists in Havana, Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez Amaro and Aurora Garcia del Busto, also reported that the police and paramilitary groups had threatened and harassed them. Interruption of telephone calls is now a dangerously normal aspect of the work of independent journalists. It is important to stress the complicity of ETECSA, the Cuban telephone company, which has Italian capital and important agreements with North American companies.