The remains of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old Army specialist stationed at Fort Hood in Central Texas, were found on June 30 after weeks of her family demanding that the US military take her April 22 disappearance seriously. The confirmation of her murder, which was likely tied to sexual harassment she faced on base, has generated national outrage and protests, some of which called for Fort Hood to be shut down and blamed US imperialism for Guillén’s death.
Another Army specialist, 20-year-old Aaron Robinson, was suspected of killing Guillén but fatally shot himself when police confronted him in the nearby town of Kileen. It is unclear how Robinson was able to leave Fort Hood after Guillén’s remains were discovered as the base was on lockdown and he was a ‘party of interest’ in her disappearance.
Cecily Aguilar, Robinson’s girlfriend and estranged wife of another former Fort Hood soldier, told investigators that Robinson had told her that he repeatedly hit Guillén’s head with a hammer and then moved her corpse out of the base in a large box. Robinson picked up Aguilar from work late in the evening on April 22, according to a federal complaint, and they drove to the Leon river where they dismembered Guillén and attempted to destroy her remains.
“Baby they found pieces,” Robison said to Aguilar during a phone call after the remains were found, according to court documents, “They found pieces.”
Guillén’s family has said that she was the victim of sexual harassment before her death but that she had not filed an official complaint because she believed it would lead to retaliation. From 2013 to 2016, Fort Hood had the most cases of sexual assault of any US army post in the world.
US military personnel, predominantly women, have suffered from rampant sexual violence since the founding of the US military, but increased reporting has exposed to what extent this is the case, with one 2019 poll showing that 2 out of 3 women in the military say they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted during service.
“My sister Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed yet nothing was done,” her sister Lupe Guillén during a July 1 press conference. “She deserves respect. She deserves to be heard because if this can happen to my sister, it can happen to anyone else.”
The biggest protests last weekend in the wake of Guillén’s murder were in Texas cities, including Houston (her hometown), San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin. On Sunday, a large caravan of vehicles and hundreds of people on foot marched through East Austin and disrupted traffic on I-35. Protesters held signs which read, “Shut down Fort Hood!”, “Ban military recruiters from schools!” and “US imperialism throws away women’s lives! Unite and Fight Back!”
A member of Popular Women’s Movement-Movimiento Femenino Popular spoke at Chicano Park in front of a spray-painted mural and ofrenda honoring Guillén, connecting US imperialism’s oppression of the majority of the world with the sexual violence against women in the US military.
“We organize to fight against sexual abusers,” she said, “we organize against imperialism, we organize for the destruction of capitalism! Because we know that the only way for women’s liberation is through revolution!”
The sexual violence that terrorizes women in the US military is a fraction of the sexual violence that US imperialism exports around the world. The violence suffered by those subjected to US imperialist invasions and occupations includes sexual violence. The high profile cases like the Mahmudiyah rape and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in Iraq, the 1992 murder of prostitute Kum-i Yun in South Korea, and the thousands of sexual crimes reported near the US military base in Okinawa, Japan only scratch the surface of this terror.
US imperialism’s role in the murder of Vanessa Guillén has provoked an anti-imperialist response from protesters. Guillén is a daughter of Mexican immigrants, a community that is constantly under threat by US imperialism, especially in a border state like Texas.
“It is not enough to call for civilian overview of sexual conduct for which various politicians advocate,” one protester in Providence, Rhode Island said. “We have to destroy US imperialism itself! The only way to effectively combat women’s oppression is to join the international struggle against imperialism and for revolution!”
One spokeswoman from PWM-MFP told Tribune of the People that the organization will continue to fight for Guillén’s cause by taking up the progressive demands called for by the people, such as forcing military recruiters out of schools.
“For a women’s organization, the task of ending US imperialism is [done by] organizing women to unite and fight back, and to join the class struggle,” the spokeswoman said. “We will continue supporting the people’s initiative of taking the streets against sexist violence.”