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News & Stories: 2009-10

Thoughts on Honduras July 17, 2009

Editor's note: the following is an interview with Kurt Ver Beek, director of Calvin's development semester in Honduras about the current political situation in that country.

Were you there during the coup?

Kurt Ver Beek
Kurt Ver Beek, professor of sociology and director of Calvin's development semester in Honduras.

No, sadly. We left on Wednesday, and the whole thing started on Wednesday.

Why do you wish you’d been there?

For the next 10 years I’ll be talking about the coup in Honduras, and students will ask, “Were you there?” and I’ll say, “No, I was eating dinner at my in-laws' house in Grand Rapids.” … I would have liked to be there to respond. I think that whenever your good friend is going through a rough time, that’s when you want to be there.

What do you think of the role of the media in this event?

I think that before the coup, there were several media sources that everyone said were getting money from Zelaya’s organizations to promote his efforts to change the constitution … [Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is accused of trying to change the Honduran constitutional term limits to allow him to serve another term in office.] It had already happened in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, and Nicaragua was in process. So when the coup took place, the coup leaders decided to close down those [news outlets.] … It’s more complicated than it initially appears. It’s not the coup leaders cracking down on the opposition media. It’s the coup leaders shutting down what people would call journalists on the president's salary.

What needs to happen now?

I think, ideally, the Zelaya administration should be investigated, charges should be brought against them, if they have broken the law, and they should go to jail. And the people who engineered the coup should be investigated, brought to trial (if they have broken the law) and go to jail. Both sides acted illegally. Practically, what will probably happen and—probably the best we can hope for—is elections will happen in the fall. They should move that forward and return to a democratically elected government.  But, given this coup, and this political crisis—how can this coup result in positive change for Honduras so that the next president is really accountable for the people, really looks out for the poor, really cares about justice? Right now, it’s really polarized. Some of the people are for the deposed president. Some people are for the new administration. So, how can the new president bring the country back together again?

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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About the expert

SInce 1996, sociology professor Kurt Ver Beek '86 and wife Jo Ann Van Engen '86, have lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and directed Calvin's development semester in Honduras. In addition to teaching on poverty and development from a Christian perspective, Ver Beek also does research on the efficacy of short-term missions and on social justice in Honduras.

The development semester in Honduras is featured in the film Honduras, Poverty and Hope.

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