“To build democracy, you have to imagine it. And the imagination is one of the scarce powers, especially under authoritarian regimes.”. Thus begins a working paper by Nobert Lechner in 1983, when ten years had elapsed since the beginning of the military dictatorship in Chile. It would still be seven years before an elected citizen in a free democratic process would assume the Presidency of that country.

After publishing the book Evilness Cahoot. Understanding the survival of the dictatorship in Venezuela, many politicians and strategic analysts have asked me countless times about the necessary conditions to achieve the rescue of democracy in Venezuela.

The complexity of this matter does not allow for a compressed answer, which is why I dedicated myself to writing a book with the title that heads this article.

In the current scenarios is difficult to envision the electoral predominance for any of the two main protagonists, the ruling regime and the democratic opposition.

While the regime that holds state power cannot find a formula to raise its support beyond 21% of the electoral preferences, the set of partners of the democratic opposition must deal with the significant decrease in sympathetic citizens who have migrated, close to four million voters, which is why they barely have 22% support in the electorate who currently live in Venezuela and are qualified to vote.

This apparently static situation continues to significantly harm the Venezuelan nation, subject to a structural crisis that continues to wreak havoc on large sectors of the population, lacking adequate existential conditions for a dignified life, while a privileged few continue to squander the scarce economic resources managed from the instances of power.

The recurrence of the dialogue

Balance or resistance continues to be the trend in the relationship of the visible actors in the electoral political field, characterized by following endogenous trajectories, lacking proposals adjusted to material reality, and wandering unnoticed by the opposing side.

The previous affirmation is a premonition about the futile fate of the democratic restoration unless the need for dialogue continues to be insisted on as a fundamental tool to produce a true change in the political, social, and economic conditions that guide the Venezuelan nation toward its full realization.

I have repeatedly heard the denial of dialogue as a way to definitively resolve the situation in which Venezuela finds itself, which apparently can only lead to three possible generic situations: the first one is to accept that the regime that controls the government cannot be democratically displaced, the second implies that any expectation of change requires the use of non-democratic methods to establish a new political reality, and the third rests on waiting for the fortunate implosion of the power structures that sustain the regime, causing emerging conditions that open space for the reinstatement of democracy.

Convinced as I am of the usefulness of dialogue to forge favourable conditions to achieve the transition towards an effective, or at least effective, democracy, I never fail to highlight the effort of the Carter Center to mediate in the Venezuelan political crisis from which an institutional upheaval emerged in the year 2002 when an attempt was made to overthrow the late President Hugo Chávez.

Indeed, during the dialogue process that took place in Venezuela between 2002 and 2004, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Carter Center, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) worked together to explore mechanisms of collaboration that will promote dialogue between the main political actors.

On August 14, 2002, the OAS adopted resolution 821, which would allow the establishment of a Negotiation and Agreements Table to find a peaceful, electoral, democratic, and constitutional solution to the existing crisis.

Before starting the dialogue sessions, the three organizations promoted the signing of the Declaration of Principles for Peace and Democracy in Venezuela, seeking to ensure a viable negotiation process.

This Negotiation and Agreements Table had three fundamental objectives: to reinforce the electoral system, to establish a truth commission to investigate the violent events that occurred between April 11 and 13, 2002, and to civil disarmament.

The entire process was innovative because it allowed the creation of different levels of interaction, facilitating the participation of a plurality of civil society actors.

Promoted by the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, and with a technical team led by Jennifer McCoy, the mission of the Carter Center in Venezuela was a leader in the projection of Non-Governmental Organizations in this innovative process.

Even when I held a position at the head of a State company, I decided to participate in these dynamics with Non-Governmental Organizations, bringing a proposal for National Conciliation.

In a flyer that we designed to provide the general lines of this proposal in the meetings in which we participate, we underpinned the central idea of "Venezuela Quiere!", emphasizing that dialogue would have a greater effect on strengthening democracy in the long term if the breadth of interactions reached all levels of social organization.

This core idea, "Venezuela Quiere", would become the slogan of the electoral campaign of the democratic alternative in 2015, which culminated in the triumph of the Democratic Unity Table in the parliamentary elections of that year.

However, despite the progress made by the Negotiation and Agreements Table that led to the recall referendum being held in 2004, the sudden illness of Fidel Castro in mid-2006 forced the Cuban regime to promote an emerging political agenda in Venezuela, characterized by a greater confrontation, fostered by the promotion of a double resistance between the government and the opposition factors, which escalated as intense diplomatic activity was developed to promote a new Latin American integration project, at the same time that the path was being cleared for the rise upto government of a regime that undoubtedly responded to the interests of that Caribbean country authorities.

Twenty years have passed since the dialogue efforts to which I am referring, and even though the regime that governs Venezuela makes efforts not to interfere seriously in any mechanism that facilitates dialogue, as well as in the democratic opposition, it has not yet been taken seriously the need for it, the truth is that there is no other way to stop the immeasurable crisis that will lead to the implosion of the current system of government.

The mandate of heaven

The Chinese doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming, 天命) is a political and philosophical thesis of ethical content where the conservation and transmission of the government depend solely on the virtue and merit of those who receive it.

In Chinese historiography, there are abundant references to the rise of the Zhou, after the overthrow of the Shang dynasty, in a transition that was justified by the will of heaven to change the rulers, given the bad results of the mandate that characterized the government of the last Shang emperors.

There is no shortage of those who assume that all the material conditions of the Venezuelan presidential mandate of the period 1999-2012 seemed to be signed under the influence of heaven. The president enjoyed high popularity, which allows someone to suppose that he governed by the Mandate of Heaven or Tianming (天命) and, therefore, this was the reason for the broad support of his followers, equating him with the idea of ​​the President Son of Heaven or Tianzi (天子). It is perhaps because of this almost mystical connotation that a current of thought arose that, advocating the configuration of a "great nation", the president was destined to govern All Under Heaven or Tianxia (天下).

Unexpectedly, the political dynasty established in 1999 suffered an unfortunate event with the physical disappearance of the President of the Republic re-elected in 2012, which forced a hasty narrative immersion where the alleged mandate from heaven would allow the continuity of the ruling class, with the electoral result of April 2013.

But it is important to note that in the notion of the Mandate of Heaven, rulers are required to be just, fulfil their obligations, and lead a correct path.

When rulers neglect their duties and behave in a tyrannical manner, Heaven can withdraw the Mandate. At first, warnings are sent to the president with bad omens, difficult situations, and natural catastrophes. If several of these circumstances happen to a ruler, the ability to hold power is called into question. However, the president can rectify this, but if he ignores these warnings, Heaven withdraws his favour and the power to govern is granted to another.

And the most complex thing about this situation is that all these circumstances legitimize the right to rebellion and, with it, to depose the ruling caste.

Ten years later, the story that advocates the fall of the current ruling class continues to be typical of the Zhou myth: the political class that has governed since 2013 moved away from the virtuous proposals on which the citizen support that electorally supported the late president was consolidated, and the deplorable economic and social situation in which the nation is subjected is the consequence of bad governance. For this reason, these officials should not be allowed to continue governing, and if the electoral processes keep them in the exercise of their functions, it is most likely due to some type of fraud because before heaven, they should no longer hold the mandate.

However, resurrecting a scenario of confrontation for supreme power, in the style of the fight between Zhouxin, the last emperor of the Shang, and Wu, the first of the Zhou dynasty, promoting and hoping for a decisive battle like that of Muye, won by Wu, to establish a new political order in Venezuela, has been a bet that generated deep wear in the confidence of ordinary citizens towards the management of its leadership. Certainly, the economic and social situation of Venezuela in the period 2013-2023 demonstrates a depressing change in the material conditions of Venezuelan citizens, characterized by a disconnection between the opinions of the political leadership and the expectations and needs of the broad majority of the nation.

But the two-headed condition that an attempt was made to establish in Venezuela between 2019 and 2022, built from the situational rooms of foreign powers, where an attempt was made to impose the figure of an alternate president, recognized by some countries, to replace another alleged usurper, whose legitimacy is based on the support of close to a hundred governments, far from forcing the transition, supposedly democratic, from a regime described as authoritarian to another whose qualities were uncertain and unknown, it strengthened a crisis of tension and resistance that directly affected the daily life of citizens who had to assume the consequences with a negative impact on their quality of life, more with impotence than apathy.

It is clear that all the signs of concrete reality require the ruling class to change course to humbly assume management based on the democratic consensus that promotes new governance based on majorities.

In the prevailing situation at the time of writing these lines, a historical cycle for the country has been completed once again and, as happened in the 1990s, the political conditions that Venezuela is going through are not based on the withdrawal of the Mandate from Heaven that It comes from the Chinese doctrine, but there is a deep exhaustion of the ruling political leadership, trapped in the obstinacy of not granting majorities adequate management to their real aspirations.

Here is the key to a proposal for reflection and encounter.

Reflection, because all the actors who make political life in Venezuela, beginning with the governors and leaders, must begin to act reasonably, based on the real material conditions, and make decisions based on the aspirations of the great majorities.

And encounter, because the definition of these aspirations must come from a broad democratic consensus that allows the participation of all citizens, and they cannot continue originating from the desk analyses of bureaucrats disconnected from reality, nor exclusively based on the multiple but few crowded spaces of clientelist militancy, where the pyramidal guideline imposes criteria and curtails open thought.

It is easy for rulers to assume that they are children of Heaven and that their mandate is characterized by infallibility, but the truth is that, in a real democracy, the mandate of Heaven comes from and depends on the people, the true sovereign to whom they should serve. The essence of rulers is to behave as public servants, owing submission to their people, and not the other way around, without trying to subjugate citizens as subjects who must pay homage and obedience.

The battle for democratic emancipation

The expectation that dialogue, as a balancing mechanism between the political forces that dispute power, can lead to the submission of one of the parties to grant the other the demands to which it aspires is illusory, much less when the most relevant of them is the abandonment of the government.

Thus, while the democratic opposition has maintained as a fundamental premise of confrontation the total defeat of the current authoritarian regime that governs Venezuela, the dictatorship, on the other hand, has fostered the weak survival of its political antagonists because it allows it to promote through communication media a democratic parody that its international allies can consume.

For this reason, just as in favourable democratic conditions, political actors develop a confrontation aimed at taking over the spaces of power available through the holding of elections, raising the electoral challenge before an authoritarian regime represents a strategic reality with multiple battle scenarios.

It seems that equating the strategy of war with the political strategy is excessive, but this similarity is necessary, especially when the main antagonist is a regime that is supported by the military apparatus to undermine public liberties and try to perpetuate itself in power.

Reinvented Sun Tzi, it is mandatory to understand that if someones try to use the methods of a civil organization to confront a structure that is supported by military operations, the strategies will be confused, and eventually, they will have to fail.

Understanding the above, the National Conciliation proposal is based on the knowledge and management of six elements necessary to confront an authoritarian regime of a military nature to achieve democratic emancipation, some of which have been rescued from the work of Sun Tzi in The Art of War.

These elements are the Tao (道), the Political Climate (政治气候), the Democratic Sphere (民主领域), the Effective Leadership (有效的领导), the Electoral Strategy (选举策略), and the Civil Organization (公民组). Perhaps one of the most significant ideas from this work by Sun Tzi that allows one to discern the crudeness of the political confrontation against an authoritarian regime is the conceptualization of deception as the main artifice in the art of war.

Sun Tzi held that war is the art of deception.

During the last ten years, the Venezuelan democratic opposition has maintained a discourse denouncing the supremacy of the dictatorial regime as supported by deceit.

The hesitation regarding the need to maintain a dialogue with the regime is supported by the previous statement. And even given the absence in the electoral processes held in Venezuela, this signalling has been used as a pretext.

Certainly, the regime that governs Venezuela is not going to abandon deception as a source of predominance because it is part of its essence and the central axis of its doctrine.

But instead, the political actors of the democratic opposition have not been aware that the absence of battle in the democratic field, still full of authoritarian trenches, has allowed the regime to comply with two relevant premises of the Art of War: 1. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting; and 2. Therefore, the skilful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting.

From my humble point of view, it is time to decisively address democratic emancipation as a liberating doctrine against oppression. And in this, the democratic opposition must understand the need to transform itself into a democratic alternative, retaking freedom as a banner and truth as a flag, remembering Albert Camus when he expressed that freedom consists in not lying because where lies proliferate, tyranny is perpetuated.

Rescuing its essence from the Venezuelan constitutional text, democratic emancipation is a process of political, social, and economic liberation that seeks to establish a full and participatory democracy.

This concept refers to the fight for equality and freedom necessary to confront and defeat a regime that has imposed a caste system in which deep inequalities and oppressions have been built.

Democratic emancipation implies the establishment of a political system based on the current National Constitution that allows the active participation of all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic origin, political or ideological preferences, gender, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. This includes equal rights and opportunities, as well as the removal of barriers and obstacles that limit citizen participation.

And the main challenge to achieving democratic emancipation is to promote a National Conciliation agenda. National Conciliation.

The presumed survival of political and social polarization in Venezuela is sustained by the reminiscence of a dialect charge in which citizens maintain recriminations based on forming or having formed part of one of the two factions that in the historical political process was characteristic during the presence of the late President Hugo Chávez in the national reality.

Certainly, there are still reproaches in the form of qualifications, which in some way are intended to be accusatory of the current material reality that the vast majority of Venezuelans live, both those who remain in the national territory and those who have been forced to migrate abroad from the country.

With qualifiers from chav-beasts to squalid, there are still complex differences that affect the possibility of achieving an agglomerating proposal of wills to promote a necessary transformation to put the Venezuelan nation back on the democratic path.

National Conciliation is proposed as a process through which it seeks to resolve current social and political conflicts and tensions through dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. The objective of the National Conciliation is to promote reconciliation and integration between the different social and political actors so that the divisions and conflicts that exist in the Venezuelan nation can be overcome.

In this way, National Conciliation is based on the idea that, in a democratic society, different groups and sectors must be able to coexist and constructively participate in the political process, and where conflicts must be resolved peacefully and fairly.

To achieve National Conciliation, it is necessary to establish mechanisms and spaces for dialogue and negotiation that allow the active and significant participation of all sectors of the nation in the compromise process. This implies the creation of an environment of trust and mutual respect, where the different parties can express their demands and needs, as well as discuss possible solutions and compromises.

But one of the primary objectives of the National Conciliation is the implementation of concrete policies and measures to address the underlying causes, the conditions that have caused the deplorable material reality that afflicts the vast majority of Venezuelans. This must include the promotion of public policies aimed at reducing poverty and social exclusion, promoting citizen participation and political integration, and guaranteeing equitable access to basic services such as health, education, housing, and security, including guaranteed access to healthy food.

In this context, National Conciliation can be a valuable tool to achieve democratic emancipation.

In the first place, National Conciliation can allow the different social and political actors to become involved in a process of dialogue and negotiation that allows them to identify and address the main causes of inequalities and social and political tensions. This process can help build consensus on the policies and measures needed to achieve a more just and equal society. And all this is possible, even if the authorities of the ruling regime exclude themselves from the process because a social avalanche of empowered citizens can accumulate the necessary power to impose an agenda of democratic emancipation.

Secondly, National Conciliation can help strengthen democracy by establishing innovative mechanisms to resolve conflicts and tensions peacefully and justly. This implies the creation of institutions and processes that guarantee the active and significant participation of all sectors of society in decision-making and the construction of new realities in public spaces.

And in a third aspect, National Conciliation can foster trust and solidarity between the different groups and sectors of society. This can help to overcome the divisions and tensions that often hinder democratic development and the construction of a more just and equal society.

It does not matter what name it acquires nor the functional model it adopts. National Conciliation is a process that has the potential to make the great social and political majorities invincible in the face of the ignominy of an authoritarian regime because citizen integration houses the greater vulnerability of the dictatorship.

Not in vain Sun Tzi explained that to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

The path to victory requires the development of invincibility in ourselves and allowing vulnerability to surface in the opponent.