HAVANA — A panel of Afro-Cuban priests are predicting a year of social and political unrest, struggles for power, treachery and coups d'etat, and they say the world will see the death of an inordinate number of political leaders in 2010.
In the forecast announced Saturday, they recommended older leaders move aside and make room for the young, a politically delicate statement in a country that has been led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro for more than half a century.
"The older generations should pass their experience on to young people because times change, and the younger generation is better prepared," said Victor Bentancourt, one of the island's leading Santeria priests, or babalawos. "Time is growing short" for such a change.
The priests announced their forecast following a secretive New Year's Eve ritual in which they performed religious chants and sacrificed chickens, goats and other animals.
A rival Santeria group, which enjoys official sanction from the government, came out with its own predictions later Saturday, saying 2010 would be a year of improving health.
Santeria, which mixes Catholicism with the traditional African Yoruba faith, is followed by many people in Cuba, where about a third of the 11.2 million population is of African descent.
The ceremony in Cuba is one of several New Year's religious traditions in Latin America. Indigenous shamans in Peru last week performed good-luck rituals for peace in 2010.
Mexico's "Great Witch" is scheduled to announce his predictions on world events and celebrity affairs on Monday, and Venezuela's Santeria priests are expected to make their predictions.