US army hit over death of recruit who alleged sexually harassed
HOUSTON, March 18 — A powerful Latino civic group yesterday called for authorities to probe the death of a Mexican-American soldier who had been the target of sexual harassment on an army base where a similar death occurred in 2020.
A 20-year-old Army private, Ana Basaldua Ruiz, was found dead in her quarters at Fort Hood, the huge Texas military base where she served, on March 13, the army press office at the base said in a statement.
“We are… concerned over the reports of her family, that their daughter was the target of repeated sexual harassment,” said Analuisa Tapia, district director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest and largest Hispanic group in the US.
Tapia and other members of the group, known as Lulac, read a statement and held a news conference Friday outside the gates of Fort Hood, north of Austin.
“Lulac demands an immediate, full and transparent investigation into these claims. This investigation needs to start now,” Tapia said, adding that it must be done by “an outside authority” — not the military.
The victim’s mother, Alejandra Ruiz, told the Telemundo network that her daughter told her “a sergeant was harassing her” and that she was being hounded.
She said she was officially told that her daughter “hanged herself,” but that she did not believe it.
A naturalised citizen, Basaldua lived with her father in Long Beach, California, before enlisting.
“Supposedly they took it as a suicide, nothing more, and that they were going to begin investigations,” her father, Baldo Basaldua, told the network.
In a second statement, issued Thursday, the base press office said “no foul play is evident” in the death but that investigators will “gather all evidence and facts to ensure they discover exactly what transpired.”
“Information related to any possible harassment will be addressed and investigated fully.”
The death occurred at the same base where in 2020 Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Mexican-American soldier, was found murdered after denouncing sexual harassment.
She disappeared in April 2020, and her mutilated body was found two months later near the base.
A dozen officers were removed in the wake of her death amid demonstrations demanding an end to impunity for sex crimes on military installations.
President Joe Biden in early 2022 signed an executive order making sexual harassment in the military a criminal offense, removing commanding officers from any pertinent investigation and protecting accusers from retaliation. — AFP