Cherry picking or banana selection? The art of wobbly statistics

The Guardian has some interesting statistics about life under Chávez. Unfortunately, the data seems to have been cherry-picked or perhaps went through some banana republic kind of selection.

Firstly: most initial data refers to 1999. Chávez started to rule 4 February of that year. Things began  deteriorating already in the second half of 1999, as some acute observers will tell you.

Take, for instance, the murder rate. The article talks about 25 murders per 100 000 inhabitants for 1999 against 45,1 in 2010. That's bad enough, but if we expand the time frame we see it is even worse. The murder rate in 1998 was 19 murders per 100 000 inhabitants, so you can see just a few months after Chávez came to power things worsen very rapidly. You can check out the data for 1998 in UNODC's 7th Report. If we were to go further back in time we will see there was a huge hike in the nineties, it stabilize in 1996-1997, dropped a bit in 1998 and went up year after year. In 2011 the murder rate was much higher and 18850 persons were murdered. The murder rate under Gómez in 1910 was very similar to that in 1998. Now it is by far the worst in South America. You can get the data, if you speak German, from here. You just need to find the amount of murders back then and the population.

Now, although the journalist plotted for inflation, she didn't do so for child mortality. She just presents two dots: one saying infant mortality was at 20 in 1998 and another showing it was just 13 in 2011.

But I took the same data, from the Instituto Nacional Electoral and plotted the whole thing.

Look at what you get:

It looks less impressive in this way, doesn't it? It is the same thing with literacy...probably worse, but we do not have very reliable data about it as the current government refuses to let independent evaluators analyse Venezuela's education, unlike what Capriles, the opposition candidate, did with the PISA programme in Miranda.

Finally, although the article shows how oil exports in 2011 are several times what they were in 1999 (she should again have chosen 1998 or at least shown several years before), it does not show why this happened: oil prices sky-rocketed, as you can check out yourself at OPEC's site.

I had actually plotted official OPEC data while contributing to the article on Venezuelan history in German Wikipedia. I put the chart here. It is in German but the data should be clear: $ per barrel and year.

I am not an economist. I am not a statistician. This is not rocket science. This is something your son John or Johan can do at age 11.

Cherry or banana picking?