Infographic of the Week: Colombia’s Elections Observer Mission

MOE, the Missión de Observación Electoral, set out to discover correlations between elections irregularities and a number of other risk factors, including:

  1. attacks on freedom of the press
  2. the presence of FARC
  3. the presence of the ELN
  4. the presence of emergent criminal-paramilitary groups, including narcoparamilitaries, groups emerging from the ranks of demobilized “paras,” God knows what else, and combinations thereof
  5. the incidence of armed clashes
  6. the incidence of “internal displacement (expulsion)”

They published their observations in map form with a color code not unlike that used by our Homeland Security nationwide terrorist risk indicator — which to my knowledge was set on “amber” on the day it was rolled out and has never budged from “amber.”

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Fuzziness and fear: If the threat remains constantly elevated, does that mean I should never leave home without my chemical warfare protection gear? It’s as though the Teleprompter monkey on the weather desk were to tell you, not what the risk of rain was on a given day, but that “You never know what’s going to happen next, so be prepared for anything!” Waste of taxpayer money of the century?

El Tiempo headined a story yesterday on the study something like “Government admits risk to elections process in 76 [seventy-six] municipalies.”

The text of the story on the MOE study, however, refers — accurately, I think — to 576 [five hundred and seventy-six] municipalities with extreme, high, or moderate risk from one or several of these factors.

We should check to see if ET regretted the error.


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Number of ballot-boxes interfered with, for reasons of public disorder, by municipality.
Risk, by municipality, presented by the presence of new groups, emergent gangs, remnants of demoblized paramilitaries, and “structures in formation.” “Structures in formation”? What’s that? Bands of armed dudes but no one has the slightest idea what the hell they are up to? Actually, the study explains the category well.

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Risk, by municipality, from presence of FARC.

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Risk, by municipality, from internal displacement (expulsion), measured by rate per 100,000 residents.

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Risk, by municipality, from incidences of armed confrontation.

I will translate you some of the conclusions from the study when I get a chance, but two things are immediately notable: (1) The clear identification of the source of the data and (2) the clear, succinct explanation of the methodology and metric used for each risk factor.

Not to mention the intuitive color coding scheme.

And above all, the effort put into analysing the risk in geographical detail.

Colombia, something of a developing-world hellhole — I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, but they are discovering mass graves in the countryside, after all — is capable of producing risk-management infographics of very high quality, and the brains that went into devising them.

Reason for hope, and more power to those brains — and the reality-based community that produced them.

Our country is the most developed nation on earth, and yet our government provides us with infotainment-graphical balderdash in return for the half trillion bucks a year we sink into keeping Helena, Montana roller rinks safe for democracy and insulated from the supposed “clash of civilizations.”

What, I ask you, is up with that?

One quibble: I would assume that areas in white, rather than green, indicate places where risk was not measured, not necesarily that risk is not present. Am I right? Let me check.


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