hugo-chavez-web.jpgHAVANA (AP) — A body of top Afro-Cuban priests recommended that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez seek their help as he recovers from his fourth recent cancer-related surgery.

In their annual New Year’s forecast known as the “Letter of the Year,” the Santeria priests, or babalawo, expressed hope that Chavez would ask for their assistance in getting well.

“I hope, God willing, that he decides to knock on the door of a Cuban priest and that God will allow for the possibility of this individual to do something for him,” said Lazaro Cuesta, one of the babalawo. “Whichever house he knocks upon, I expect he will receive the help he requires.”

Cuesta said priests had not performed a ceremony in Chavez’s name because they do so only if asked. Chavez has been convalescing in Cuba since his operation last month for an undisclosed cancer. The secrecy surrounding the precise nature of his ailment and treatment has led to speculation about his health, which Venezuelan officials characterize as “delicate.”

Santeria, a blend of Roman Catholicism and the African Yoruba faith, is followed by many in Cuba, where about a third of the island’s 11.2 million people are of African descent. Each year thousands look for the priests’ “Letter,” which is obtained in a ceremony in October and released around the new year.