Could it be that the murder rate did peak in 2008?

Today, we have a guest post from Friend-of-the-Blog Dorothy Kronick,who’s researching crime in Venezuela for her Ph.D.

And a popular hobby it is...

And a popular hobby it is…

As Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres and the Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia battle it out over the 2013 murder figures, most Venezuelans shrug their shoulders and believe who they want to believe. Government supporters instinctively trust the minister, while the opposition takes it for granted that OVV’s much higher estimate must be right.

Oddly, in this hyperpolarized environment, the quality of that OVV number hasn’t gotten much scrutiny—and the OVV figure is not what it seems. It’s not a body count based on leaked government data, nor is it an estimate constructed from a proprietary survey. It’s a forecast based on past trends – a slightly more sophisticated version of the XKCD method.

In fact, the methodology section of OVV’s latest press release raises more questions than it answers. The forecasting techniques they mention require data both on past forecasts – i.e., 2010′s guess for 2011 – and on actual realized past values – i.e., the actual number of violent deaths in 2011. But since, by OVV’s own account, they don’t have access to reliable counts for at least the past five years, it’s not clear what they’re using as model inputs. There’s an oblique reference to “partial data from diverse regional and national sources,” but it’s not clear what those data are or how they’re used.

I reached out to Roberto Briceño León for clarification [disclosure: RBL is a friend and I had him read a draft of this post before publishing], hoping to be told, “No, chama, you misunderstood; our number is based on data from such-and-such source.” Nope. Instead, he said that my methodological criticisms were valid, adding, “Asi que nuestra metodología no es perfecta ni acorde a todos los cánones, pero qué podemos hacer, no hay otro modo de tener información y en condiciones de obscuridad es la poca luz que tenemos.” In other words: without reliable government statistics, what do you want from us except a simple forecast?

Well, let’s see: for starters, I’d like OVV to publish rather than hide the accuracy (or lack thereof) of their guesstimate. For instance, they tell us that “el rango de las afirmaciones podemos hacerla con un 95% de confianza,” but this doesn’t really make any sense, because they’re not publishing a rango, they’re publishing a number!  That point estimate without a confidence interval is close to meaningless. Are they 95% sure that the interval 75/100,000 to 83/100,000 contains the true homicide rate? Or are they 95% sure that it’s between 20/100,000 and 138/100,000? For all we know, the government’s figure – 39/100,000 – is within OVV’s range.

Then they compound the problem by reporting what they’ve already told us is an estimate with extreme numerical precision – 24,763 deaths, rather than 24,762 or 24,764 – lending the figure an artificial air of exactitude. Not amusing.

And there’s a further methodological pasticho that has do with the inconsistent use of “homicides” and “violent deaths,” which look like synonyms but definitely aren’t. (For instance, if you’re killed resisting arrest, that doesn’t count as a murder for Rodríguez Torres’s purposes.) OVV used to report homicides, but their 2013 press release actually refers to violent deaths. So we end up with a case of apples and oranges: OVV’s 2013 (and 2012) estimates aren’t directly comparable to OVV estimates from previous years…or to Rodríguez Torres’s number.

These flubs are troubling because OVV insistently bills itself as an academic institution, which gives their estimates a scientific aura. That press release refers to “los investigadores de las siete universidades nacionales que integramos el Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia,” and Briceño-León is a respected and prolific professional sociologist. But claims to scientific status depend crucially on publishing detailed descriptions of methodology, allowing other researchers to scrutinize and replicate results. Why doesn’t OVV do this?

And, if OVV is wrong, what’s the real story?

Surely, we can’t just trust the minister’s number: with even less information about how Rodríguez Torres’s people arrived at their figure (insert obligatory condemnation of CICPC censorship), that would be foolhardy. So is there any reason – other than Rodríguez Torres’s say-so – to believe that the worst of the violence nightmare might actually be behind us?

In fact, I see three reasons to suspect that the answer might be yes … and none of them have to do with Plan Patria Segura.

First, little noted in the Guerra de Cifras, there actually is a third source of info on all this: the Ministry of Health (MPPS), which compiles and publishes birth and death records. And, perhaps surprisingly, the MPPS data show the violent death rate falling in 2009, 2010, and 2011 (the last available year; 2012 and 2013 haven’t been posted yet).


Of course, MPPS officials might have manipulated the data for political reasons – but if they did, they did so carefully, without leaving obvious tracks in the underlying micro data (which I have worked with for research purposes). Naturally, there’s a lot of room for error – and potential bias – in the way MPPS codes the death certificates that give rise to this data. Still, much of the administrative process is separate from the process that produces the CICPC data, which makes it better than nothing as a third source. Moreover, there isn’t an obvious basis to fudge it, since this data is so far off the political radar screen.

But let’s assume you just refuse to take any number the government publishes seriously on principle. Then are we stuck with the XKCD method?

Not at all. Rather than forecast the homicide rate based exclusively on the past trend – which, for OVV, is itself a series of rough guesses – you might try estimate the homicide rate based on hypothesized covariates. Roberto Briceño-León, for example, has made quite clear that he views impunidad as a key driver of the violent crime trend; he might therefore try to look at data on policing or apprehension rates.

Or take Quico’s hypothesis, which is that the volume of cocaine trafficked through Venezuela drives the homicide rate—not, as in Mexico, because cartels fight for the international trafficking business (Venezuela has only one big cartel), but because some of the cocaine makes its way to the domestic market, where street gangs fight for the local retail trade. If you believe this story, you might note that trafficking has declined as demand in the U.S. falls, and that could account for lower violence in Venezuela.


Other research links homicide rates to childhood lead exposure, pointing to evidence that the decline in leaded gasoline use in the United States in the 1970s produced the decline in US homicide rates in the 1990s.


This is yet another reason that Venezuela’s homicide rate might be declining: the childhood lead exposure of Venezuela’s malandreable-age cohort rose sharply through the 1990s (as crime increased) and then recently began to drop.

My point isn’t that either lead poisoning or cocaine trafficking is definitely responsible for the violence wave; these assertions would require serious quantitative evidence. My point is that there are lots of data researchers consider when trying to explain trends in homicide rates. Longstanding trends can turn, sometimes for reasons that have nothing to do with law enforcement.

But no new trends could show up in an OVV estimate that limits itself to extrapolating data from years when murder rates were rising. Actually, it’s not even clear why they needed to wait until December to publish their 2013 number: if all the data that went into their 2013 estimate was data they already had a year ago, why not publish the 2013 murder tally back then? For that matter, why not tell us right away how many homicides there will have been in 2014?

(A note on sources is after the jump)

So now that I’ve tugged OVV’s ear for methodological opacity, I better tell you where I got all my data:

  • Official/CICPC/MPPRIJ figures were published here by Ana Maria San Juan, for 1990–2011.
  • For 2012 and 2013, I’m taking the official homicide rate from press reports on official announcements (20122013).
  • MPPS publishes annual reports here. For 1999–2010, I’m calculating the violent death rate based on the underlying data, but you can replicate the totals using just the data in the PDFs (which is what I do for 2011, since I don’t have that microdata yet) by adding the following causes of death (ICD-10 codes): X85-Y09, Y20, Y21, Y22, Y23, Y24, Y28, Y29, Y30, W32, W34, Y35, Y36.
  • For population, I’m using some INE data that I think has been removed from their website; happy to provide it by email.
  • For cocaine seizures, 2007–2011 are here; 1980–2006 here.
  • Childhood lead exposure is a back-of-the-envelope calculation: the product of road gasoline sold per capita (from WDI), percent of population that’s urban (also WDI), and percent of road gasoline that’s unleaded (see p. 76 here).

93 thoughts on “Could it be that the murder rate did peak in 2008?

  1. I think we should take the worst number that has something that looks like backing and use it until the government comes clean with their methodology and results. This is not because one would think it’s true, but because otherwise you’re basically supporting government lies.
    I know there’s a risk of being discredited, but if you specify the reason why you’re doing it that is much reduced.


        • You could honestly say: “the problem persists (there is an abnormal rate of violent deaths in Venezuela), and the causes I’ve touted as relevant persist; so… let me crunch more numbers again.” Because there’s data to figure whether there is a general increase in the trend from previous administrations.

          Politically, you can say “it’s worse” (you have to spin it).

          OVV is under no obligation to spin the truth (on the contrary), and the porposeful creation of a trend could be spin. Or it could simply be a series of suspect methodological assumptions. Briceño admitted this, “what can yo do?” is not enough as an answer.

          And anecdotal evidence isn’t any good, either.


          • I meant to say that even if OVV has political ties (handing data to the opposition), they have no political obligation to make it politically “sexy”. They might have shown a bias, and have a decent excuse (we have no data), but they cannot make this a matter of fantasy.

            I support wholeheartedly this effort. Not that we are entirely safe (though it is harder for middle and upper class citizens to suffer directly from violence -yes, everyone has an anecdote, a reliable anecdote, on the matter, but that’s besides the point-, but even a few probability inferences can attest to real differences in risk.


  2. Excellent post.

    I was trying to find more data on the OVV site and I realised there was no contact information available there. I know it Venezuelan organisations tend to avoid any kind of response to the public but this clearly looks like they don’t want to be questioned at all, period.
    And no one seems to be willing to make regional statistics available. Such statistics
    would make it a little bit easier to double-check.

    I have been writing down the numbers of murders for Carabobo – murders or what passes for “homicidio” as reported from (tabloid) Notitarde and (less tabloid but not so much) El Carabobeno. Here you have one of the charts I have produced:

    If we see the data with other views (or just calculate the regional rates) we also see how crime centres slowly move across the region, presumably due to local migration, differing policies . You can also notice some trends: Christmas time is murder time and there are some hikes at the municipio level that might be linked to local festivities, but they are evened out at a grander scale.

    In another post I calculated the murder rate for last year for every municipio of Greater Valencia (aka “Carabobo”). If you read about the policies that are being implemented by the government in that state now after the Spear murder, you realise how clueless our policy makers are.

    Still, all in all, I also noticed there clearly seems to have been a peak in Carabobo.

    Why? Dorothy’s points are definitely worth considering.

    One thing I think we should analyse more closely is birth rate evolution. Although we still have one of the highest birth rates in Latin America, birth rate certainly peaked earlier.

    There might be one point you should consider that is not less serious than the lead poisoning theme: greater internal (chaotic) migrations. From the very beginning of 2000 and for several months a huge amount of people moved from the worst affected areas of the floodings in Vargas and Greater Caracas to such areas as Carabobo and up to El Tocuyo and some regions in other parts of Venezuela. These were people from usually socially weak households.
    I have got reports – anecdotal stuff but confirmed by so many others- of locals in secondary or tertiary cities all over Carabobo and Lara and Monagas complaining about the “malandros venidos de Vargas/Caracas”. I am talking about old poor complaining of the malandros with no jobs whatsoever, no social link but a lot of cocaine to sell.

    There are some studies linking large amount of homeless/desplazados to higher amount of crime, social erosion (read Happiness, by economist Richard Layard, see Eastern Congo after the Rwanda genocide, Pakistan with the eternal Afghanistan conflict, etc).
    Mix that with the cocaine topic…perhaps there is some link there.

    Of course, we should never forget how the Comandante Eterno was publicly comparing the malandro asesino with the poor wanting to buy food for his sick child from that book he liked so much, Hugo’s Les Miserables.

    If you trace back the people detained for the Spear homicide, you will see they were registered to vote in the most Chavista voting centres of Puerto Cabello…not simply the poorest, but evidently those areas product of invasiones in the San Sebastián National park and really extensions of more established poor areas.


    • are you suggesting that, if the suspects of one particular homicide were registered to vote in an area with great support for chavismo, we can infer some kind of relationship between murder and political ideology?!


      • Sir,
        Correlation is not causation. We do know more people are murdered in areas with a higher support for the military, but the prevalence of one ideology among victims and perpetrators is not clear based on this. If I had a list of IDs for murderers I could run some tests using Bayesian statistics. That would be interesting.


        • It would be interesting to look into correlation between ideas that link murders to political ideology and racist or fascist ideas. As far as ideology goes, socialism has to do with social concern, with solidarity, and this clearly opposes murder instincts


          • Years ago I knew a small thin grizzled old farmer with a chopped off left arm ( result of a machete fight) who lived with his young wife and small children at the fringes of a relatives land, sustaining himself off a tiny plot Plantains . His style of speech was both threatening and jesting, using an aggresive and yet droll tone which revealed his admiration for the manly tough guy who stood no offenses to his dignity and found in violence the finest expression of the manly character. You could see his wife was fascinated with her old husbands speech and style ,moreover she gave us a show of her ability in wielding a machete with ferocious vigour (purportedly to shoo away some intruding chickens) . A year later I learned how their lives had ended in tragedy . The old man had gotten into a drunken brawl with a younger man , had been beaten up , had gone crying to his wife and the latter had furiously gone after the young man with a machete and killed him . She was in prison and the old man and his brood had dissapeared . This tale might help us understand that the creole culture of macho violence wasnt born with Chavez, it had existed long before he ever came into Power., maybe hidden in obscure small rural violence nobody paid much attention to. Chavez virulent speech certainly made it worse, but although its grown its always been there . People, out of vanity love to enhance and flatter their self image by embracing lofty ornamental ideals that their natural character and disposition are out of synch with . One of those ornamental ideals is Socialism . The end result is not that peoples character is changed because of their professed beliefs but rather that those ideals become embodied in conducts and attitudes which reflect the natural character of those that profess them , even if the two dont match. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St Francis were no less catholic christians than Tomas de Torquemada or Savonarola , the basic beliefs are the same and yet the way of practicing those beliefs couldnt be more different !! We overate the importance of beliefs in shaping character .


          • Right. And what type of socialism? Lenin and Stalin claimed their ideologies were born out of social concern and solidarity. “Solidarity” was a pretty frequent word in the vocabulary of communists (before Polish unionists of Solidarnost used the word with other aims).
            As of racist: this doesn’t have to do with racism. As of fascism: you don’t an idea about what “fascism” is. Please, check out the article on Fascism in Wikipedia.

            The ones claiming to be socialist revolutionary in Venezuela now are people who have a lot of blood in their hands. And they have the chutzpah to accuse people in their thirties or younger of being supporters of the IV Republic when several of the PSUV leaders, people like Chacín and Róger Cordero, were the worst crap the IV Republic produced.


    • The “Mision Vivienda” effect is clear, I hope some researcher writes a paper about it. For example, in the Av. Victoria-Roosevelt-La Bandera triangle, robberies and murders committed by motorizados skyrocketed after the Mision buildings were finished in the area. What used to be in the 90s and early 00s a quiet neighborhood of elderly immigrants, it is now a zona roja where motorizado gangs rule. Walking after 7 pm from any of the subway stations gives you nearly 100% chance of being robbed or worse. The gangs patrol and roam the streets with full impunity. The police and guardia only control 2 single streets where important govt officials still live. The rest of the area remains completely unmonitored. To illustrate, near several Mision buildings a local police checkpoint “alcabala” was installed to control the gangs of motorizados in the area… Well, the “Mision Vivienda” residents were unhappy about having the police nearby and collected signatures and succesfully lobbied for the removal of the police checkpoint!!. The area now is once again with no police surveillance and extremely dangerous to transit.


  3. An early english natural philosopher once wrote that if people had ever had an interest (meaning a mercenary or sectarian interest) in the outcome of geometric operations, the development of a Science of Geometry would have been impossible because the results would have been slanted towards that outcome which best profited the party doing the calculation. .
    Apparently the same thing happens with Venezuelan violent crimes statistics, the regime is evidently interested in showing that violent crime rates have fallen ( presumaby thanks to the efficiency of its crime fighting activities) .The observatory on the other hand might be influenced by an unconcious tendency (from researchers with likely oppo background ) to show the govt wrong .
    Thus the precise accuracy of both sets of statistics may be suspect. My guess is that in such situation the ‘true’ statistic may lie at a point between the lower official statistic and the higher observatory statistic . Which any way we look at it is still inordinately high , Specially for a country which after all claims to have reduced poverty ( traditionally linked to high violent crime rates) in a very substantal way.
    Impunity of course cannot be ignored as a factor that fosters high violent crime rate and Venezuelan figures for impunity are uncontroversial . high Impunity clearly signals a failed crime fighting policy so that if any factor has influenced a lower than reported violent crime statistic effective government action is not it.
    Its been established by sociological studies that the main motive for most violent crime is not need, people can commit armed robbery but not injure or kill their victims, they can incurr in theft which involves no bodily injury to anyone , Most of the time they can get a job no matter how transient and unsttisfactory that allows them to feed themselves . The basic motive is the desire of the criminal to rescue his ravaged sense of self dignity through the exercise of wantom and cruel acts of violence against its victims . That outraged sense of maimed or injured dignity is the result of the endemic practice of child abandonment by parents and the influence of the primitive savage macho mentality that pervades marginal culture in Venezuela . Also abandoned children usually suffer from malnutrition and neglect which doenst do much to make them intellectually competent , self controlled and balanced in their behaviour . violent crime has become in our country a ‘way of life’ , giving rise to a marginal subculture that promotes its exponential growth and persistence.
    If lead poisoning is a factor, then our violent crime rate should have been much higher in the past when all gasoline was leaded than what it is now and thats certainly not the case.
    In short even if the observatorio figures arent absolutely precise they are probably more reliable than the official figures which are given by a regime thats notorious for its unscrupulous propensity to grossly manipulate facts to favour its public image.!!


    • If lead poisoning is a factor, then our violent crime rate should have been much higher in the past when all gasoline was leaded than what it is now and thats certainly not the case.

      You have to read carefully. The idea is that lead exposure in early childhood leads to criminal behaviour later in life. That’s why lead exposures are presented with a 22-year-lag: you have to wait until kids exposed to lead grow up before they go all criminal on you.

      There’s a whole literature on this. It may be right, it may be wrong. It’s worth understanding it before you dismiss it.


      • Point taken , maybe lead gasoline consumption ( which goes back for much more than 22 years) has an effect on violent crime , I rather feel however that other factors ( such as parental neglect or abandonment , or impunity resulting from a bankrupt crime fighting system etc) have much greater influence on the statistic.
        I fear that people nowadays are so intent on showing off their ‘politically correct’ credentials ( which includes blaming everything on ‘meany’ ecological sins) that a lot of ideas are passed of as science which really reflect a subliminal tendency of eco goody researchers to project their prejudices on their findings . Happens all the time.


      • I don’t think the lead poisoning hypothesis makes a whole lot of sense. The paper it is based on looks at lead poisoning and crime rates in particular areas exposed to high levels of lead, such as people living close to highways. I don’t think we have information detailed enough to make the causal inference that we are trying to make here.


        • The lead hypothesis is obviously controversial. The point isn’t that it’s right. The point is that there are *all*kinds* of variables that could conceivably lead to a crest in the crime-wave that are magically wished out of existence by OVV’s exponential smoothing approach.


        • btw, the VERY late date at which leaded gas was taken off the market alongside the much-higher-than-in-similar-countries rate of gasoline consumption brought about by the gasoline subsidy suggests, prima facie, that if exposure to atmospheric lead in early childhood really does cause crime, Venezuela is a prime candidate to be a bit of an extreme case.

          Obviously way, way, way more research than what D.K. can fit on the back of an envelope would be needed to establish this. But there’s a lively academic debate on lead exposure and crime, it’s not as crazy an idea as it first sounds.


          • Unleaded gasoline in Venezuela was introduced in late 1999 and started being used massively around 2005 which means that if ( as is now suggested ) the crime curve peaked in 2007-2008, the 24 year ‘priming period’ for crime to develop didnt hold true for Venezuela, It may be a factor , but apparently not a very decisive one.
            There were people during WWII who had anecdotal (albeit statistically unverified) information that the nazis were carrying out a mass execution of european jewry .Although such behaviour might have been foreseable from Nazis unspeakable treatment of its jewish population and unscrupulous conduct in war and peace.There was at the time no reliable statistically basis to affirm its truth , Mere anecdote cannot substitute for precise , scientifically gathered data . Jewish interests might have been fabricating these horrour stories to entice anti nazi feelings in the west . Of course we all know that these mass murders where a horrific reality which the world can never forget , but at the time there was no reason to give this information any credence. .


            • Bill, your point is well taken. But, statistics aside, as far as the Nazi’s committing mass murders of Jews and others, the facts were indeed out by 1942.

              “The first report (there were others) which spoke of the plan for the mass murder of Jews, was confirmed at the Wannesee Conference in Nazi Germany. This info was smuggled out of Poland by the Bund (a Jewish socialist political organization) and reached England in the spring of 1942. The details of this report reached the Allies from Vatican sources as well as from informants in Switzerland and the Polish underground. (Jan Karski, an emissary of the Polish underground, personally met with Franklin Roosevelt and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden). Eventually, the American Government confirmed the reports to Jewish leaders in late November 1942. They were publicized immediately thereafter. While the details were neither complete nor wholly accurate, the Allies were aware of most of what the Germans had done to the Jews at a relatively early date.”

              Statistics can be useful and comfortable for some. But statistics should never be applied to understand the soul of a man or the soul of a movement. I mean, if the majority of Venezuelans supposedly voted for Chavez and Maduro, then that is the way they want their country to go. So then let the statistics guide you appropriately. as anybody can prove any point they want to, with statistics.


              • The point which I attempted to make using the nazi holocaust example is that there are many instances where information being un available or concealed or only partially known one cannot pretend to discard some report simply because the methodology or data used in preparing it is statistically incomplete or impure : In the holocaust case some people might have known that many were being killed by the nazi mass murder machine but there were no precise numbers about the extent of the killings, thus if someone calculated that the victims might number millions , the fact that no one could compute with precision their exact number did not make such report unworthy of consideration . I myself think that statistics require interpretation and that an unscrupulous government has many ways of falsifying them for public consumption to help its political image . Im not particularly impressed by the fact that sometimes many people presumably think alike or that if they bunch together they become some kind of abstract sacred beign with absolute powers , thats rather gross and childish . If you poll them individually most likely they will be found to hold to different opinions or be entirely ignorant of the implications of many purportedly common ideas even if they vote together . we all remember what Borges said about argentine democracy , that it was a superstition of statistics. You have to look inside statistics to see what they mean and that takes a special kind of intellectual temper or talent .


              • Well said Bill: “You have to look inside statistics to see what they mean and that takes a special kind of intellectual temper or talent.” And I think that we both can agree on the point that if one tries to prove a specific idea, without earnestly trying to disprove that same idea, the results may be what that individual wants, not necessarily the truth.


        • Some experts have attempted to explain that the Roman emperors, who casually exercised murder for pleasure, were affected by the lead in the pipes of ancient Rome. These experts however failed to take into account that many of these vile emperors were brought up far from Rome, in locations without piped in water.


          • The story I remember is a bit different , people drank a lot of wine those days and the most appreciated wines were bright red in colour , wine sellers therefore took to the custom of adding bright red rust to the natural wine to make its look more appealing , the red rust came from lead metals . thus whole generations of emperors were slowly poisoned by the lead they drunk with their wine . As one of the consequences of lead poisoning is causing people to lose their minds , emperors took to barbaric frenzied forms of behaviour , we all remember the stories about nero and caligula . Now its the imbibing of certain toxic red tinged ideas which make people take leave of their senses. A good example: the rulers of todays Venezuela and the way they are literally destroying the country. !!


            • I don’t know if this is a digression, on my part or not, but here goes. Both Marius and Sulla were excellent military leaders and more or less reasonable men. But when they got total power they both exercised total disregard for human life. The power is the elixir that makes some people believe that they are gods. Other Romans, such as Caesar and Augustus, practiced moderation (for their times) when they acheived total power.


    • In short even if the observatorio figures arent absolutely precise they are probably more reliable than the official figures which are given by a regime thats notorious for its unscrupulous propensity to grossly manipulate facts to favour its public image.!!

      Sigh…the day Nicolás Maduro announces the sun rises in the east, billy bajito’s going to interpret it as conclusive evidence that it rises in the west… :P


      • Francisco , continuos observation and experience tells us ( and you , better than anyone else knows this) that this regime is notorious for its unscrupulous falsification and adulteration of information to suit its political interests . Oppo tinged information sources are of course not inmmune to the tendency I describe in my prior comment ( see above) so my conclusion as regards the violent crime stats is that they lie somewhere between the official stats and the observatorio stats and that even if the true stats fall below the latter they are still pretty damming !! I m less interested in getting an absolutely pure figure than getting a range of figures which reasonably falls within the plausible . Ni calvo ni con dos peliculas !!


        • i’m curious whether you could list some specific examples of “unscrupulous falsification and adulteration of information to suit its political interests”.


            • funny, that’s what i thought you’d say! that’s why i asked you for specific examples. do you not have any? to be clear, i’m asking for specific cases where official data (from the ine, bcv, mpss) has been falsified, etc.


              • A very notorious one is the claim of illiteracy being eradicated. It was announced, then official data said otherwise and the Maduro again said it happened.

                With the exception of the mentioned example, what I have noticed is that is not that it is falsified but distorted via funny/weird methodologies. Such as: Buhoneros = self-employed = not unemployed. Killed by the cops = not a murder. There are some other examples.


              • Rodríguez Chacín (do you remember? one of the bloodiest men of the IV Republic, responsible for the planning of the Amparo Masacre, who then became one of the heroes of the “Revolution”?) like 5 months after he had become one of the many ministers of Interior Chávez had that he had reduced murder rate by 30%. Two months later he was replaced by someone else (we have had 13 minister changes at that ministry in 15 years, 2 presidents and the same system).

                Another is the supposed “literacy has been eliminated thanks to Chavismo” or “Venezuela is UNESCO-certified illiteracy-free” combined with statements by the deceased coup monger about the Delta and other areas being “illiteracy free”.

                They contradict themselves all the time. Even if we were to take the INE data seriously: this indicates that literacy just went from 93% to 95% from 1997 to 2010. If you plot the data for several years you actually see there is a clear deceleration during Chavismo
                and the decrease can be perfectly explained through demography alone (see age distribution). Several researchers have done work on this. The Delta has still illiteracy rates that are incredibly high, which seem to correlate with Chavismo’s epic results in that region.

                If we looked at the INE data on age distribution and compare that to the CNE data, we see that from age 40 there are about 10% more voters than people living in Venezuela. Even if we were to assume there is a delay of report of those who have died…that’s just nuts.


              • thanks. the ‘illiteracy free’ claim is probably the best example. to be sure, the claim was always misleading, especially if it “the standard for a country to be considered free of illiteracy [is] 95%” (according to wikipedia–the source cited in the wikipedia article is unfortunately no longer available). the president of mission robinson says that the ‘illiteracy-free’ claim was made, in 2005, when the illiteracy rate was below 4% (i don’t think this was clarified at the time). UNESCO reports that, in 2009, literacy rates were 95.5% for adults and 98.5% for youth. people began to question the success of the education missions when the 2011 census numbers–yes, numbers from the government (INE)–showed an illiteracy rate of 4.9%. anyway, so it’s official data from the INE seeming to refute the declarations of political leaders; i think the example justifies greater distrust of the latter rather than the former. for reason Kronick explains, the MPPS numbers she cites are unlikely to have been manipulated for political reasons.


              • You are such an idiot, Taco.
                Of course you will doubt INE, which is part of the government, just doesn’t coordinate things as efficiently as they wanted. The numbers were disputed from the very moment they came out. They were disputed over and over again. There is an article on that in The Economist (2008) with different sources.
                And there have been many others.

                I could go on for ages but I won’t waste more time with people like you. You are really believing in the crap of the murderous military in the same way as a Jehova witness believes in his stuff: not out of reason but pure belief.


              • And by the way: UNESCO didn’t certify any shit. UNESCO simply repeats whatever the government says. The “UNESCO data” was uploaded by the Chavista government itself.
                There are good reasons why the military-pseudo-socialist regime doesn’t want to let Venezuela take part in the PISA programme or in any other evaluation programme where there are external testers. It doesn’t have to do anything with “soberanía” but with the fact they are scammers.


              • Taco, the thing is that the methodology used to determine literacy by INE (as other studies) is not available.

                Do they ask people if they know how to read? Do they test them? The literacy data that we have came from the 2011 census which implies that the individuals were asked, not tested. Do we people really acknowledge if they didn’t know how to read? Again, very bold statements were made about that achievement with no data, methodology or anything behind it. Not only the political leaders lack credibility but also institutions.


              • rodrigo, i am with you 100%. i agree the government should be more transparent with regard to making available information about the methodologies, etc. used to arrive at official numbers. until this information is provided, it is reasonable to take such numbers with a grain of salt. however, my point is that there is little to justify the presumption (on the part of bill bass, and others) that all official figures given by the government *must* somehow have been falsified.


              • It is not only the INE that is lying on literacy.

                The literacy achievement was a big stinking farce.
                Please, read this:

                That is data from the 2008, pre-census. The literacy “study” was carried out by others from the government and anyone with “cuatro dedos de frente” must have known back then that that was a blatant lie.

                Germany has had a literacy rate of 99%. Now Venezuela had reached that level?
                If you even had the slightest contact to people beyond your educated university circles and working environment you could know that “feat” could not be true.

                On another occasion Chávez declared on an interview to a BBC correspondent that crime had decreased dramatically (when asked about the crime increase). That was a shameless lie and it was done in a year where it was particularly painful.

                If they are not openly lying and giving contradicting figures (once Aristóbulo said X% of the budget was going to education and a couple of days earlier Chávez had said another number and a couple of days before some other official another) they are cherry-picking figures in the most disgusting way: how much progress we have attained on the Internet – when Venezuela is lagging behind most countries in the region –
                or that this government has managed to reduce child mortality dramatically, when child mortality declined only at the same pace as it had been declining for decades…and so on.


              • kepler, it is not a “literacy ‘study'” cited in The Economist article, but a Household Survey with too many methodological shortcuts taken for drawing any definitive conclusions regarding literacy rates. the survey simply asked whoever present at the time of the interview about other family members: “Do he/she/they know how to read or write”? it was never designed to measure literacy or reading skills. moreover, *even if* the 2008 survey reported a literacy rate at odds with other official numbers, it hardly proves that “anyone with ‘cuatro dedos de frente’ must have known back then”–in 2005!?!?–“that that was a blatant lie”. you are missing the point of this entire post, which is meant to help induce an additional level of self-doubt and self-awareness.


              • Taco, you are the one who hasn’t got any fucking clue, or as you try to say, of “self-awareness”. You don’t realise what the Economist article of 2008 was referring to.
                The GOVERNMENT’s claims about 0 literacy was produced ALSO (do you get this?)
                by a self-assessment test around 2004…carried out by Chavista officials and later uploaded to the UNESCO site as all governments do because UNESCO expects governments not to be too criminal and falsify their own data.

                And that study the one the Chávez government uploaded to UNESCO’s subdomain for Venezuela was used to declare that it was a “UNESCO certification” in 2004-2005. Only later did they admit it was not declared by UNESCO but by them and Aristóbulo Istúriz, former adeco, former Causa Errista said “we are sovereign to declare it ourselves”.

                So then came the INE census, which was organised in 2010 and 2011…and that census declared literacy to be 95.4% at most, which definitely confirms what the Economist paper, criticising the Chavista claims, said.

                So: it has been a lie all the time from the Chávez government.

                But we can go beyond that. I have taken the time to go over the INE data and it turns out even there I find inconsistencies: municipal numbers do not add to state ones.
                That is a scandal. If you are going to cheat, at least try to be consistent. But the whole handling of statistics by the government and the supposed origin is sloppy, utterly sloppy.

                Weisbrot is a shameless mercenary and the other guy (I doubt Weisbrot knows what “average” is, much less more complex statistical concepts) just went over numbers that are not worth considering. The other mercenary’s (Rosnick) assertion are pitiful, but I won’t go into that further here.

                You just need to look at the fact hundreds of thousands of PSUV people are still illiterate, you just need to look at the fact people working in the Delta and who have a little bit better ethics than the government or Briceno have confirmed illiteracy there is still very high (I also happen to know some anthropologists who have been there)
                to know one thing: illiteracy levels cannot be at the level of Germany or the Netherlands (98-99%), not even close to that…Is it then 96%?

                Because if we see the figures of the INE throughout the decades we see the rate at which literacy was rising already:


  4. Ps.
    Year Homicides (Notitarde dixit) in Carabobo
    2006 1833
    2007 1550
    2008 1985
    2009 1886
    2010 1816
    2011 1622
    2012 1913
    2013 1683
    That seems to fit with Dorothy’s assertion.

    In this map I plotted the murder rate for Carabobo’s municipios in 2013

    If Valencia were divided between parish Miguel Pena (with over 50% of the population of Valencia, about half a million people) and the rest, the murder rate of Miguel Pena would probably be close to that of Libertador (where Tocuyito is).
    The government is now focusing in the Puerto-Cabello-Valencia motor road. That’s nice for us but it should consider whether it wants people in Tocuyito to be killing themselves at the rate they are doing it now.


      • I could have painted Tocuyito pink, but the stats are what they are. Seriously:
        the very dark municipio is Libertador (don’t confuse with the other Libertador municipios in our Bolivar-crazy feudal state). Tocuyito is just a part of Libertador. My guess is that the murder rate in Tocuyito is higher. Now, we are talking about 167 murders in Libertador last year (the population is 1000 times that, which means 1 out of 1000 persons were murdered in that municipio last year.
        Valencia municipality had like 570 murders but the vast majority were committed in the South. I don’t have differentiated statistics per parish, that would be interesting to have.

        One thing I would like to know: how many of those murders might be associated with the municipio having a prison.


        • I think the main factor would be that Municipality lacking a Municipal Police Force. This year, Chavismo (main political force in Libertador, Carabobo), finally decided that it would be a good idea to create it.

          I would put more weight behind that factor than from the existence of a prison in the Municipality. Though prisons have a tendency to increase criminality in their local area, or so I perceived from the news coverage on the prison in El Paraíso. I have no idea if the Retén de Catia had a similar effect.

          That’s why specific public figures could be so useful, we could just be querying the crime stats in every Municipality with a prison and then comparing them with neighboring municipalities, and know if there’s any statistical correlation. But we’re limited to just hypothesizing for lack of data.


  5. I guess this is the sort of situation where good ol’ Rumsfeld would say “we don’t know what we don’t know”

    I say:
    * stop grasping at straws, the death toll is still impressive
    * wait a few years, keep collecting data….

    And good effort, by the way.


  6. This is a great eyeopening post. Congratulations to Dorothy for such a great work, and for having the balls to denounce such a terrible practice from OVV.
    Whether the violence peak is behind us or not, I guess no one feels really safe in Venezuela and that’s something undeniable. The use of inflated figures just contributes to disappoint those of us in the opposition with a critical point of view and who refuse to “cacerolear” and just say yes to everything the opposition leaders say. (The same thing most of the people from the opposition criticize from Chavistas/Maduristas)


  7. I’m sure all sorts of correlations are theoretically possible (maybe global warming is keeping people indoors more so that they don’t go out so much to kill?? Or, in Venezuela, the increasing cheapness of gasoline relative to ever-increasing Bs. personal incomes is favoring the leaving one’s home increasingly to go out and kill??) The point is, the real roots of homicide rates probably lie in sociological/institutional realms, and in Venezuela, lack of proper family/educational/peer group constraints, coupled with virtual total judicial/institutional impunity, favor an increasing homicide rate. Venezuelan statistics are NOT to be trusted at any level, and particularly if they might reflect dis-favorably on the actual regime.


      • As an empirical experiment, since Venezuelan data are pretty well damned, on your next visit to Caracas visit El Jardin Del Oeste, km.12, Carretera Del Junquito, where a goodly number of Caracas barrio dead (Caracas is 60% barrio) are buried, and browse the tombstones birth and death dates. You’ll be surprised at the incredible percentage of very young vs. older deaths; I do not trust the good Dr. Kronick’s MPPS lower homicide rate data, which is perhaps her best “factual” basis for her Doctoral thesis argument. And, of course, she’ll always be a candidate to work with Izarra on promoting tourism to non-violent (just a “sensation”) Venezuela, and, perhaps, can hook up with the FAO representatives, on their first trip to the Country, to witness first-hand the increase in agricultural production for which Venezuela’s Revolution was so admirably recognized by them.


        • Why the hate? She’s doing a thesis and has found a flaw in OVV’s methodology.

          We’re better off knowing that than preaching around a number que tiene rabo de paja…


  8. My sense, and i’ve argued this to Dorothy over the years, is that you gotta keep your eye on the coke. The Cartel de los Soles gets paid partly in cash, but also partly in kind. They end up sitting on a bunch of Colombian coke that they need to monetize within Venezuela. That coke makes its way onto the barrios, and that’s the start of the turf-wars that make up the bulk of the body count.

    We have strong evidence that demand for cocaine has tanked in the U.S. over the last couple of decades, with declines accelerating over the last few years – for reasons that Mark Kleinman explains well here –

    Less coke moving north through Venezuela means less coke getting diverted to the barrios. If small time coke dealing is the fuel that keeps the homicide fire burning, that fire has had a lot less fuel to burn over the last few years.


    • It´s would be vert ironic that military operated drug trafficking is one of the main reasons of the spike of violence we have experienced and the solution to the violence is … take the military out to the streets (Esos para los ilusos que creían en 1998 que los militares eran la solución al problema cuando en realidad son uno de los principales problemas)
      BTW, the reactions to the post in the blog confirms the total disregard that many people in Venezuela have to the scientific method, statistics, research that helps keeping something like chavismo in power. Studies, like the one being performed by Dorothy, objective and based on hard data, are the ones we need if we ever want to get out of this mess.


  9. good grief, when you mix spanish and english in the same sentence is really hard to follow what is exactly the point of the article… if there is any…


      • could it be, but this yet another nonsensical article and pretty much for nothing… cuz nobody give a sh… about this sort of things.


        • ok, ok, i’ll stop bothering you with ideas that don’t fit in with your preconceived notions…you could just record yourself saying “I’m right all the time” and play that back to yourself on a loop…


          • sounds like you are describing yourself… I for one, didn’t know that OVV ever existed, so I couldn’t care less about them, neither I’m making an effort to defend them. Personally I find very hilarious how people wakes up in the morning and say “I’m going to spout pure nonsensical stuff to demonstrate how self-righteous I am!”… but in the end, is all my fault for paying attention to it… sigh…


            • You couldn’t care about OVV? At least, they are doing some meaningful work for their country. Nonsensical stuff? An effort to scholarly shed some light about the real situation of violence in Venezuela? Are you freaking serious? Do you need an ad hominem attack to prove that point? No, you werent’ paying any attention. AHDH, perhaps? “El que se acuesta con chamos, amanece meado.” By the way, please revise your grammar…


              • sigh… I don’t know If I’m replying to Toro himself, who decides to use a different nickname, or to a cheerleader… but I couldn’t help to notice this stupid and retarded comment.

                “scholarly” shedding some light?? …

                “Scholarly”??? that is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever read here… crying foul at somebody for being biased when CC is one perfect example of extreme opposition bias, heck they have a book to prove it. That ship had sailed my friend.


              • I was referring to Kronick’s piece and also to her research, you turd. Learn to read. And no, I am not Toro or a cheerleader. I can think by myself. Judging by your looks, it appears you can’t …


              • Just to be clear what look do I have??

                it’s nice to see how these people can fall way below in their attempt to be so righteous, by being mother fuc… racist, great cheerleader and racist, good for you sir. You want to add something else??


              • Obviously with that nickname, you are not constrained to use racist slurs, and insult as you please. Go ahead keep posting, it really shows how CC and his cheerleaders are no better than chavismo itself.


        • If you don’t give a shit about this sort of things… why bother reading and commenting?

          Seems like an extremely hands on approach on not giving a shit about something.


          • Yeah I know, the fault is mine for paying attention to it in the first place. Usually I ignore someone when is trying to portray himself/herself as know it all self righteous, to a point where the head is so stuck in their ass, but claiming that somebody is too biased while being a biased douchebag, one simply can not stand by and do nothing, something must be said, to let it be clear that you can fool yourself but not everybody else.


            • You need to relax, jctt. You are wrong when you say “cuz nobody give a sh… about this sort of things.”. Relax, calm down and accept that. You may be right about other stuff you posted in your comments, but many of us do give a shit about these issues, many of us do know what OVV is and are glad to read some facts about how their methodologies may not be as academic as they claim they are.

              Please stop insulting. Same goes to the people that responded to your comments (you, too, need to relax). Let’s try and keep this serious, we already have youtube comments if we want to waste our time reading insulting responses.


  10. This is a great post, and is one of the few that test our biases with the reality on the ground in Venezuela.

    Cognitive biases clearly highlighted by the post:

    Belief bias: accepting or rejecting an argument based on how well it fits our pre-defined beliefs, rather than the objective facts of the situation.
    Gambler’s fallacy: The belief that future events will be shaped by past events, even when the two have no correlation
    Bandwagon effect: believing something is true only because other people think it is
    Bias bias: the belief that we are less biased than we really are


  11. What an embarassment for Briceno Leon. Although I’m not surprised. Few people in Venezuela seem to understand the importance of reliable data.. I actually feel bad for taking their estimates seriously..

    The one thing I’m really skeptical about is the use of correlations for predicting how bad crime will be.. I don’t know whether this is common in social sciences, but I feel it lacks all sorts of rigorousness. My basic point being that before you can weigh the impact of something like cocaine trafficking on crime, after showing there’s a correlation between these two variables, you have to be able to discard all the alternate hipotheses..

    In my opinion the main reason why there’s so much crime is the lack of police forces. The most visible example is Caracas, where the government decided to get rid of the PM, as a consequence crime in Caracas is worse than it’s ever been (Caracas’ murder rate is about twice the national average). On the other hand they’ve reduced dramatically the money allocated to regional and local governments.

    Kudos to Dorothy!


  12. It is always possible to get information from official sources which are considered by a governemnt as politically irrelevant. E. Todd used, for instance, infant mortality evolution (from official sources) to analyse failures of Soviet state in The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere in 1976.

    Violence is male-biased, so you can compare deaths rates by genders and their evolution. Some time ago, I have made some comparaisons between Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela’s Adult mortality rate (probability of dying (per 1000 population) between 15 and 60 years), using WHO database:
    General health statitics were similar for three countries between 1990-2006. I have found a general reduction of this rate for females during this period, probably droved by demographic and better sanitarian conditions. I have updated my table and add last data available:

    Female Colombia México Venezuela
    1990 115 120 117
    2000 100 100 98
    2006 87 89 95
    2011 76 95 90

    Divergence for males appears:
    Male Colombia México Venezuela
    1990 230 215 178
    2000 225 177 185
    2006 176 155 187
    2011 154 177 198

    By this kind of indicators, it is possible to obtain information about violence evolution. Of course, other male’s mortality between 15 and 60 years are accidents, obesity, etc. but I think that violence is a major part of the male’s mortality increment for those years. Corrections from demography must be done carefully, but I think that demographic evolution affects as well males and females because Venezuela’s population is young. With some work (excluding health related sources of mortality such as tobbaco, obesity, diabetes, car accidents, etc.), it is possible to have a fair enough estimation of violent deaths to compare with other sources.


  13. I also think that impunidad might be the biggest driver in violent crimes. But if I were to forecast the homicide rate based exclusively on the past trend wouldn’t I have to compare or “correct” the data of apprehensions with the Plan Cayapa?


  14. This was a great article. Dorothy thank you for providing some clarity, and for god’s sake, some data.

    One of the things that Rodriguez Torres et al need to understand is that the first thing they need to build is credibility. And that he will only get with transparency. Being obscure and secretive about the figures and just discarding certain cases like not murders (i. e. resisting arrest).

    I think this article was a great follow up to Juan’s article. One of the things we need to do to forgive is to rid ourselves of prejudice. These facts are a great cure for prejudice.


    • Definitely agree with that. One of the most unfortunate tendencies of Chavismo is hiding indicators instead of fixing problems. Because it prevents everyone else from helping efficiently.

      In the age of Big Data we should be looking towards data oriented governance, that is, having all kinds of raw information available so public institutions, academia and independent researchers can elaborate hypothesis, propose solutions and assess the effectiveness of past measures.

      The goal should be being able to look up the stats from every hospital individually and compare them to detect where there might be problems (bad service, epidemics, insufficient/excess of staff), look up the crime stats from every parish and measure things like response time or conviction rates, look up education stats from every school and compare them (teacher performance, student performance, college goers, class size).

      Unfortunately, the chavernment has other priorities like finding out if the gringos poisoned Bolivar, making sure the period from 1992-2014 receives the same attention as the period between prehistoric times to 1992, imposing a failed economic model, equipping the armed forces with fighter jets or dismantling decentralized authorities.


  15. No surprises here. I never trusted OVV, if only for not publishing their sources. Not to mention the bizarre mustache.

    And CIPC of whatever the PTJ calls itself these days has always slanted statistics. “Ajustes de cuentas” have never counted as homicides!!!

    But subjectively, I have never felt so threatened in CCS as I have in the past few months. Never heard so much shooting in the nights. Never drove through TWO murder scenes in one single night, as I did last Tuesday. No matter what statistics say, I am scared motherless.


  16. There are studies that show that when people feel protected from discovery they will wiggle the facts if that results in some advantage to them , so for example if people earn money on the results of a test they are taking they add a few more points to their results to hike their gain. They dont dare invent a figure outright from empty air,, they just adjust it so it looks better than what it actually was . If you look at the health authorities figures for criminal of violent deaths they are higher than those given by the official reports on homicides but the latter generally shadow the former . This may be a sign that the figures given by the health authorities are generally right but that the govt shaves them to improve the official stats in the govts favour .
    Sometimes I get access to information that hasnt come out in the news . and then I see how the govt either silences it or manipulates and distorts it when making it public. This experience has made me deeply distrustful of the govts honesty in disclosing information, specially where they include facts or statistics which hurt their image. I dont keep tabs of these silences and falsifications , but they happen very often. One very noticiable official stats which has been proven false again and again is that of Pdvsa oil production and exports , and some might add the amount of revenue which they claim to obtain from selling it . One thing which makes me suspicious of govt data is when the result suddenly become better than expected under normal circumstances and when they offer no detailed supporing data on how they are made up. Im a private individual with no special research or data collecting training or facilities , but a govt does have the resources to support their statistics with detailed information that can help demonstrate its accuracy ,If it doesnt , then maybe its credibility might be put in question .Francisco and other researchers have commented in the govts opacity in the news it discloses. My assumption is that such opacity serves a purpose ,!! a not so innocent one.!! , . ,


  17. I applaud the effort to research such a horrible problem. But a few this jump out for me:
    – The advice to Briceño “he might therefore try to look at data on policing or apprehension rates.” is reasonable? Do such data even exist? I also thought OVV follow press reports (similar to what Kepler did) to try to contrast with official numbers. Is this not done then?
    – Quico’s hypothesis, which is that the volume of cocaine trafficked through Venezuela drives the homicide rate. Is there any data to hint in this direction? Do we know how many violent deaths are gang related and how many are committed during robberies and kidnaps? My guess (not backed by anything either) is that violence in the late 80’s early 90’s was mainly gang related. I lived through two families from opposing gangs literally annihilating each other until not at single male member survived. Back then robberies were unheard of, even in a barrio. But now? I would be really interested to see those numbers. nothing I’ve read, seen or heard points in that direction but who knows. Toro might be onto something.
    – But, the part I don’t buy is that Cocaine going through Venezuela has declined. The total amount of cocaine sold might be down but the % of it that now goes through Venezuela? If press reports are to be believed we are a big hub and basically have taken a much bigger piece of the pie. The pie might be smaller but our piece is bigger. Number of cocaine seizures don’t tell us anything when you are telling us the military, who is basically in charge of policing this days is the only cartel there is!
    – finally, I find the lead hypothesis very interesting, but where does the 24 years lag come from? The criminal career in Vzla starts at 14 or so. Where does that leave us on the possible relation there? Sorry I can’t do the math at 10 pm on a school day. :-)

    you might note that trafficking has declined a


  18. Just to clarify things , I am attributed (together with others in this blog ) the belief that everything the govt says is necessarily false, I’m afraid thats a gross misrepresentation of my position , What I do believe is that because the govt has so often been caught lying in the past, either to outrageously toot its own horn or to scape blame where the truth doesnt help its image , one is justified in holding suspect any declaration or report by the govt which serves to whitewash or distract atttention from its blunders , crimes and malfeasances ,Example, the govt says that the cause of the current hike in inflation and shortages is a plot by dark sinister ultra right opposition businesspeople and imperialist powers to wage a war against Venezuelas economy by artificially rasing prices and keeping stashes of products hidden from the public. The reports of our blogmasters have shown this to be a baldface lie. This misrepresentation is apparently meant to present me and others as blindly biased and fanatized people .That is not the case !! .
    On the other hand to make believe that all the self aggradizing, exculpatory or difamatory statements the govt makes are to be taken at their face value , even where it deliberately denies the public any access to information which might help support or disprove its truth is a form of naivete , we can not in any way feel bound to support.
    That being said there is a responsibility on the part of those who are in the business of publishing or reporting facts for public consumption , to use the best methods available to establish the truth of their reports , without pretending that it must sattisfy some impossibly high standard of precision and certitude as is possible where a govt allows free access to the data and information needed to that end. Also these people should, ( out of respect for their public) avoid using flawed methods or methodological shortcuts which are by themselves likely to be unreliable .


  19. So, I would summarize as follows what I get from this post and the discussion that followed:

    1.- The government numbers are not to be trusted, but neither are the numbers given by OVV, whose methodology amounts to nothing but a big stinky pile of crap.

    2.- In any case, the real number of murders is extremely unlikely to be less than 40 per 100 thousand inhabitants (the number given by the government) and also very unlikely to be higher than 80 (the number given by OVV). So we can be pretty sure the real number is between 40 and 80. Maybe, being a bit sloppy, we can say 60 plus or minus 20 with 95% confidence level. How about that?

    3.- The lowest bound, namely, 40 murders per 100.000 inhabitants, is still pretty f-ed up.

    4.- There are real fanatics on both sides of the political spectrum (not that I didn’t know that before).


    • fair enough…

      for me, what’s interesting is less the overheated debate about the murder rate and more the epistemological dynamics of certainty amid polarization.

      Even with an “elite audience” like this one – and it’s way worse out in the real world – you get quite a number of people incandescently angry when you show them that people on their side of the polarization are ridiculously unprofessional. There’s a determination to be lied to, a doublethinky pleasure taken in being deceived by people telling us what we want to hear that I find…stomach churning. It’s gross when you see it on VTV, but somehow it’s even grosser on our side, because it shows we’re igualito, pero al revés.

      So let’s get real. This isn’t *really* a post about the murder rate. This is a post about how we know that we know what we think that we know. The conclusions are…not encouraging.


  20. Proffesionalism is a rare commodity in the county, even more these days of brain drain.
    The truth of the matter is that many of you still fail to see the bigger picture. IMO a regime that has run systematically the country to a state of dependency and to the brink of total chaos while enjoying one of the largest oil windfall in history is not to be trusted, period. You are mostly trying to show intellectual mind games and reasonable rationalization when the issue at hand is clear as water. SE están robando absolutamente todo y sólo confunden y enredan y dividen para controlar y salir ilesos….


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