First, allow me to thank the organizers of this event, the jurors of this important award, and Cartoonists Rights Network International. Receiving the Award for courage in Editorial Cartooning is a great honor that recognizes my husband Ramon’s work, his unbreakable valor, and his unbending commitment to defending freedom of expression.
Ramon first visited Hofstra University from his country of Equatorial Guinea in 2009 to show and talk about his work. Today, eight years later, his daughter Cecilia and I are here in his name to accept this great honor and ask you to help up demand his freedom.
My husband would have given the world to be here with you. Instead, he finds himself in one of Africa’s worst prisons. Tomorrow marks 50 days that Ramon has been incarcerated in Equatorial Guinea, a country characterized by human rights violations and corruption.
Above all, Ramon is a cartoonist committed to his work and to freedom for his country. He has always seen himself as a voice—though his art—for thousands of people in Equatorial Guinea who still live in a country in which basic fundamental rights are systematically violated.
My husband is in prison because he dared to speak up through his art. He dared to depict President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea as a common man. He dared to show people in his country that they, too, could laugh at the absurdities of a callous regime that is supported by the West—yes, even by the United States of America.
Nothing would make Ramon happier today than knowing that you are all thinking about and honoring him with your presence here.
Actually, there are three things that perhaps would make him even happier:
1. First, calling on your government to demand Ramon’s immediate release could help secure his freedom.
2. Second, a delegation of you, visiting the Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea at the United Nations—where Equatorial Guinea will be assuming a seat at the Security Council—to ask for his immediate release, could also help tremendously.
3. Third, a delegation from this room, traveling to Equatorial Guinea and demanding to visit with Ramon in prison, would send a very strong message to the regime in Equatorial Guinea that the world is watching.
I implore you to consider taking action if you can. Not only would the international support of fellow cartoonists make Ramon very happy, but it could make a difference in his future, in our family’s future, and in the future of Equatorial Guinea.
Despite being in jail, my husband continues to draw beautiful images. Without his pencils and markers, without paper, and behind bars, Ramon continues to draw with his words the meaning of freedom, the meaning of democracy, the meaning of justice. Every message I have received from Ramon confirms that he is not giving up on any of these values. We too cannot give up on these principles, and we cannot give up on him.
Thank you for honoring and fighting for Ramon. Your solidarity means the world to us.
Eloísa Vaello Marco
Speaking at Hofstra University, New York, November 4 2017