By ANNE-MARIE GARCIA
HAVANA (AP) _ Afro-Cuban priests warned Thursday that the new year may be marked by outbreaks of disease, environmental disruption, familial disorder and conflict between people and nations that risks spilling into war.
In the annual “Letter of the Year,” a commission of “babalawos,” or Santeria priests, also predicted that 2014 could see the death of important global political or religious leaders, and elderly people in general. They did not, however, name any names.
In Cuba, many top leadership positions are occupied by graying octogenarians who participated in the 1959 revolution. President Raul Castro turns 83 this year and has said he does not intend to remain in office beyond the end of his current term in 2018.
The priests said intergenerational understanding, cooperation and unity are keys to a stable future, both in Cuba and elsewhere.
“The time has come for young people to approach the old and for the old to open their arms to them … and together draw a clean slate that gives society in Cuba and elsewhere the possibility of a better future,” said Lazaro Cuesta, one of the founders of the Letter of the Year Commission in 1986.
“Dialogue is the only solution that world society has,” Cuesta said.
Santeria is a mix of Roman Catholicism and the African Yoruba tradition. The annual “Letter” is released each year around New Year’s Day.
The commission’s predictions are typically vague and have a spotty record when it comes to accuracy.
Last January the priests invited Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Cuba who was then battling cancer in Havana, to seek Santeria’s help. Chavez died in March.
They also warned of discontent and social uprising in 2013, a prediction that was borne out in nations such as Egypt and Syria