MEXICO CITY – Antonio Vasquez is a cherubic 72-year-old with twinkling eyes, a long white beard and a knack for predicting things that don't actually happen.
For more than three decades, Mexico's self-proclaimed "Grand Warlock" has been doing tarot card and horoscope readings to reveal what's in store for the coming year. Among past predictions: Fidel Castro would die in 2008. Germany would win the 2006 World Cup. Barack Obama would lose to Mitt Romney.
Despite Vasquez's consistently incorrect record of prognostication, dozens of journalists swarmed Mexico City's press club on Friday for the Grand Warlock's latest round of predictions in what has become one of this country's most reliably strange and inexplicably popular New Year's traditions.
On tap for 2013, according to the Grand Warlock: a new war in the Middle East, chaos in Venezuela and a tough year for Obama.
But it's not all bad news. Vazquez said 2013 will be a great year for Mexico, a country that has struggled with drug violence and a slow economy.
"Mexico is going to have a relevant place in the world, economically speaking," he said. "Mexico will place itself as a paradise for investors."
The thick-browed warlock also said there will be a lot less people killed this year in Mexico. According to some statements by the current Mexican administration, at least 70,000 people were slain between 2006 and 2012 as the government of then President Felipe Calderon battled drug traffickers.
After reading some of his dozens of predictions, Vazquez took questions from reporters and said tarot cards showed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is battling cancer, will make it to his inauguration but that he will be dead by April.
He also said cards showed him the death of Jenni Rivera, the Latin music superstar who was killed Dec. 8 in a plane crash, was not an accident.
"The plane would not have exploded the way it did if it hadn't been carrying a bomb," he said.
Investigators have not revealed any evidence the plane exploded in the air.
Regardless of his shortcomings, his readings get wide coverage in the local media. And there have been times when he has been spot-on.
In 2006, he predicted Calderon would win the Mexican presidency. Last January, the warlock accurately predicted that the world would not end in December, saying theories of doomsday in 2012 were "big fat lies."