HAVANA — Cuba’s high priests of the Afro-American Santeria religion announced their visions for 2010 Saturday, predicting big social changes and internal conflicts that should be handled with “sincere dialogue” and mutual respect.

“We can reach all we aspire to, but we can also destroy it all. The possibilities in 2010 are greater than last year’s. It all rests in our hands,” babalawo — Santeria priest — Lazaro Cuesta said on presenting his group’s “The Letter of the Year” report.

Put together by some 1,000 babalawos in the country, the annual predictions for Cuba and the world include “coup d’etats,” “sudden changes in political systems,” “betrayal and usurpation” among top government officials, as well as falling farm and livestock production, and the “breakup of agreements… wars and military interventions.”

As antidotes to these problems, the babalawos recommend “sincere dialogue,” respect for “the decisions of the majority and the opinion of the minorities,” and “new reforms” in the political, economic and social orders.

While they make no specific references to Cuba’s government, the predictions seem to point to the aging Cuban leadership of President Raul Castro, 78, and his ailing brother and Communist Party head Fidel Castro, 83.

The soothsayers recommended people heed the saying, “the young palm trees grow taller and thicker than the old ones,” which Babalawo Victor Betancourt interpreted as meaning: “making an overhaul, which is what’s needed at the moment and is not taking place.”

The babalawos also forecast “serious environmental pollution problems” on a global scale and “rising sea levels.”

And regarding human health, they warned about an increase in cerebral-vascular diseases and in problems of the eyes, lungs and bones.

Santeria was brought to Cuba by African slaves and has many followers among the island’s 11 million people.

“We’re not critics, We’re spiritual counselors,” said Betancourt about his brotherhood.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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