Cuban Santeria priests welcome closer ties with US, see conflict and disease in coming year

A group of Afro-Cuban Santeria priests say the path is clear for improved dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba following the government's announcement of plans to renew diplomatic ties.

The "babalawo" priests' annual "Letter of the Year" predictions also foresee dangers of epidemics, conflicts, environmental imbalances and the loss of religious or political leaders — projections that have been common in past Letters.

Leading babalawo Lazaro Cuesta says the restoration of ties with the U.S. opens a period "of hope for all the world."

His Commission of the Letter of the Year represents about 1,000 babalawos and is independent of the government. Another government-recognized Yoruba Association issued its yearly message on Thursday. It did not mention ties with the U.S. and urged people to "avoid social indiscipline."