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Cuba suggests Y2K scare was capitalist con

By Andrew Cawthorne

HAVANA, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Communist-run Cuba said on Sunday the world's fears over the millennium bug, which failed to substantially materialize, were probably part of a capitalist conspiracy to boost spending on computers.

Havana also suggested millennium celebrations around the globe -- which it considers came a year early given the Christian calendar began with the Year One -- were largely commercially-motivated.

"The world, celebrating the Millennium ahead of time, perhaps with commercial aims that nobody spoke about, saw in 2000 with fireworks and without Y2K, the much-publicized electronic error," the state daily Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) said in a front-page editorial.

This, the paper said, "raised the suspicion that the immense investment in computers was due to an audacious market maneuver."

The newspaper, reflecting the official view of President Fidel Castro's government, titled an inside article on Y2K "Much Ado About Nothing" and added: "The chaos that had been predicted was merely a scare."

In Cuba, like in most countries, the much-feared Y2K bug apparently caused no disruption to key sectors.

"For us, the Millennium error didn't bring any alteration. All activities continue working normally," Melchor Gil, in charge of the island's Y2K preparations, said.

Elsewhere around the world, some minor glitches at hospitals and nuclear power stations were the only signs on Sunday of the Y2K bug biting as a weekend of tests suggested computers would continue their smooth transition into 2000 when much of the world returns to work on Monday.

Having officially rejected Jan. 1, 2000 as being the start of the new millennium and saw in the New Year relatively quietly. Far more important for the ruling Communist Party was the 41st anniversary of Castro's Jan. 1, 1959, revolution.

Castro backs the view of some historians and experts that the new millennium does not begin until Jan. 1, 2001, because the Christian era did not use the digit zero.

As they do most years, many Cubans did gather at each other's homes for low-key New Year dinners and parties, tossing buckets of water out of the window at midnight on Saturday in a local custom to say farewell to hard times in the past.

State-run media concentrated on the revolutionary anniversary.

"The revolution reached 41 with a joy only overshadowed by the absence of Elian," said Juventud Rebelde's Sunday editorial, referring to a U.S.-Cuba custody dispute over 6- year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.

Cuba has in recent weeks mobilized massive street protests to demand Elian's return from Florida.

The boy was picked up at sea off Florida on Nov. 25, after a craft full of Cuban boat-people capsized, killing most passengers, including his mother. His father, who was divorced from the mother and is in Cuba, is demanding his boy's return.

-- TM (, January 02, 2000



-- TM (, January 02, 2000.

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