The media wakes up to Dagestan's silent war

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the media and investigators quickly turned their attention to Dagestan, the Russian province where the two suspects -- Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- have deep family connections. In subsequent coverage, the region was described as "plagued by violence," "known to grow and export terrorists," and "the site of a long-running Islamic insurgency." It had taken a bombing on American soil -- one with what may turn out to be a spurious connection to Dagestan -- to wake the press up to the persistent turmoil in the North Caucasus.

That dynamic was on vivid display today, as news broke that a bombing had killed two teenagers near a Dagestan shopping mall. The media -- both in the United States and around the world -- seized on the story (a quick English-language Google News search yields roughly 40 results). But as coverage of Dagestan over the past weeks has made clear, attacks of this nature are far from rare in the province. 

On May 3, 2012, for instance, 14 people were killed and 87 injured in a twin bombing in Dagestan. But the international media paid scant attention to the event. According to a LexisNexis search of international newspapers, only five picked up the story.

And when there are fewer casualties, the results are even more dispiriting. On Feb. 14, 2013, a suicide bombing killed four and injured five at a Dagestan police post. Three newspapers picked up the story. 

As Anna Nemtsova recently wrote in Foreign Policy, even Russians refuse to pay attention to the conflict in the Caucasus until it arrives at their doorsteps: 

In the first four months of this year alone, 67 people have fallen victim to terror attacks in Dagestan, but the news media hardly mention the casualties. Russians only pay attention to the insurgency when suicide bombers attack the Moscow subway or the airport. Whenever this happens, experts invariably urge the Kremlin to analyze why the jihad by Salafi community in North Caucasus keeps on simmering.

It's an important reminder of how parochial the media's interest can often be.



Evo Morales nationalizes the 'dignity' of the Bolivian people

Every year for the past seven May Days, Bolivian President Evo Morales has nationalized key industries as a gesture of populist zeal. But this year he went one (or two or three) steps further. "Today we are only going to nationalize ... the dignity of the Bolivian people," the leftist leader declared in protest of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's description of Latin America as the "backyard of the United States."

So, how exactly do you go about nationalizing a people's dignity? By kicking out USAID, apparently. Morales accused the aid organization, which has been operating in the country for 49 years, of attempting to undermine his government.

On Wednesday afternoon, USAID issued a statement in response to getting the boot:

The United States government deeply regrets the Bolivian government's decision to expel the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).We deny the baseless allegations made by the Bolivian government.

USAID’s purpose in Bolivia since 1964 has been to help the Bolivian government improve the lives of ordinary Bolivians. All USAID programs have been supportive of the Bolivian government’s National Development Plan, and have been fully coordinated with appropriate government agencies. The United States government has worked in a dedicated fashion over the past five years to establish a relationship based on mutual respect, dialogue, and cooperation with the Bolivian government. This action is further demonstration that the Bolivian government is not interested in that vision.

What is most regrettable is that those who will be most hurt by the Bolivian government’s decision are the Bolivian citizens who have benefited from our collaborative work on education, agriculture, health, alternative development, and the environment.

This is not the first time that the United States and Bolivia have butted heads; in 2008, for instance, Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador and the Drug Enforcement Agency. But only now has the Bolivian people's dignity been caught in the middle.