Latin America, a region often identified as particularly vulnerable to year 2000 problems by industry observers, has apparently avoided major damage.
Not one country in the region has so far reported serious problems related to the year 2000 computer bug, according to International Y2K Cooperation Center's Global Status Watch Web site (http://www.iy2kcc.org).
As recently as November, pessimistic predictions were being made regarding Latin America's readiness for the year 2000 problem.
"Unfavorable economic conditions and a lack of financial resources could make the fallout from any major Y2K-related problems more severe in Latin America than in other regions, impacting corporate entities in the region," reads a report issued in November by Duff & Phelps Credit Rating (DCR) Co. [See "Corporate Y2K Trouble Expected in LatAm" Nov. 9, 1999.]Yet, as in the rest of the world, the year 2000 problem seems to be so far a minor nuisance at worst in Latin America. There have been no reports of disruptions in the region's main industries, including energy, telecommunications, banking, transportation, health, food and water, according to the IY2KCC's Web site.
"Judging by the results obtained so far, we can state that México successfully met the first global challenge of the technological era," said Antonio Puig, president of CONACI, México's year 2000 commission, in a statement issued yesterday.
In Chile, as in most of the region's countries, problems reported have been minor and isolated, so far.
"(In Chile) the Y2K problem has had no operational impact in any service or public institution," reads Chile's latest report to the IY2KCC. So far, Chile has only suffered "minor problems in public services and private companies," according to the report.
The success can be attributed to the fact that the year 2000 problem was addressed thoroughly and taken very seriously in Chile, an analyst said.
"A lot of work was done in Chile to fix the year 2000 problem, especially in the banking, manufacturing, communications and transportation industries," said Ricardo Stevenson, general manager of International Data Corp. (IDC) in Chile.
Still, companies and government agencies remain on alert and monitoring the situation, Stevenson added.
In México, it is estimated that about 100,000 people have been involved since 1997 in fixing the year 2000 problem, according to CONACI's Puig.
Air travel, a major concern worldwide, proceeded normally in Latin America.
"On the New Year's Eve, there were 30 airplanes landing, taking off or flying over the Brazilian territory," reads Brazil's report at the IY2KCC's Web site.
Brazil, the region's largest country and economy, has only faced "minor problems" that were soon solved in land transportation and health institutions, according to the site. The biggest problem that affected Brazil on Dec. 31 was caused not by faulty computers but by nature: heavy rains in the country's southeast and central regions caused power outages.
Telecom congestion was a bit of a problem in some countries, like Argentina, but not in others, like Chile, which reported that "typical New Year congestion was less than expected and data communication (Internet) connections have been operating without problems," according to the IY2KCC report.
The biggest problem reported so far in Venezuela was the malfunctioning of a temperature monitoring system at a major aluminum manufacturing plant, according to the country's report on the IY2KCC's Web site.
"However, this failure does not represent a major risk for the production process itself. The plant is operating normally in manual mode," the report reads.
Other countries reporting that everything is normal include Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama. Even the poorest countries, like Haiti and Cuba, seem to have made it to the new year unscathed by the anticipated year 2000 disaster, according to the IY2KCC's Web site.