Another Latina soldier dies at Fort Hood after reporting sexual harassment

On March 13, 20-year-old Ana Basaldua Ruiz, a soldier at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas, died under mysterious circumstances after reporting sexual harassment. The situation is eerily similar to that of Vanessa Guillén, who was murdered by a fellow soldier after reporting sexual abuse in 2020. Fort Hood is slated to be renamed this year, but it appears little has changed in the culture beyond the name.

While the U.S. Army has stated that Ruiz’s death was a suicide, Alejandra Ruiz Zarco, the victim’s mother, questions the claim. She has stated that Ruiz faced sexual harassment at the base, including by one of her superiors.

Fort Hood has garnered a reputation for sexual misconduct, deaths, and disappearances. One hudnred and sixty-three people died at Fort Hood between 2016 and 2020. The most infamous of these deaths was that of Vanessa Guillén. In 2020, Guillén, a 20-year old Army specialist, was found dead two months after her disappearance on April 22. Like Ruiz, Guillén also reported sexual harassment at the base. She was murdered the day before she was planning to file the report against her supervisor. Investigation into Guillén’s death only occurred after pressure from her family and the public.

Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s sister, said of Balsaldua’s death, “It was hard to accept the fact that it happened once again, and in Fort Hood once again, and to a Latina once again… a young female soldier. It just completely brought everything back.”

Incidents of sexual assault and violence against women in the U.S. military are not random occurrences, but a systemic problem. According to one of the Pentagon’s own surveys, sexual assaults in the military rose 13% in 2021. Some 8.4 percent of women and 1.5% of men noted they had experienced unwanted sexual contact. A 2018 study found the sexual assault risk was 8.4% for women in Fort Hood, compared to 5.8% nationally. This is just based on reported data: the real numbers are certainly far higher.

The Army’s indifference to cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault cannot be disentangled from its role as a global purveyor of violence. The U.S. military has justified its invasions and permanent military installations by claiming to protect women’s rights. Instead, war zones created by U.S. invasions, and areas where the military has large bases, face much higher rates of sexual violence and other human rights violations. Women in the U.S. military are often subjected to these same injustices.

Ana Basaldua Ruiz should be alive today, just as Vanessa Guillén should be. On May 9, Fort Hood will officially be renamed. Instead of Confederate general John Bell Hood, the base will be named after U.S. general Richard Cavazos, who built his career on the U.S. invasions of Korea and Vietnam which collectively killed millions of innocent civilians. Fort Hood does not need a name change or new coat of paint: it needs to be shut down immediately for the good of the people and the planet!

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