By Jeffrey Cohan
Inspired by the Sinaltrainal union's case against Coca-Cola, a La Roche College student filed a similar lawsuit last week against Occidental Petroleum, a Los Angeles-based corporation allegedly involved in the 1998 bombing of his Colombian village.
Alberto Galvis, a freshman attending La Roche on scholarship, is seeking punitive damages from Occidental for the deaths of his mother, a sister and a cousin, all of whom were among the 17 civilians killed when a Colombian military helicopter dropped a bomb on the village of Santo Domingo. The bombing took place during a week of intense combat between the military and
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the larger of two leftist groups fighting the government.
Occidental maintains an oil pipeline in that part of northeastern Colombia and subsidizes Colombian air force operations there. The lawsuit also names as a defendant Airscan, Inc., a Florida-based security contractor for Occidental. Occidental denies any involvement in the bombing.
Daniel Kovalik, the attorney for the United Steelworkers of America who is representing Sinaltrainal against Coca-Cola, is also assisting the legal team that represents Galvis. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge William J. Rea in Los Angeles.
Galvis fled Santo Domingo after the bombing and enrolled at La Roche under the college's Pacem In Terris Institute, which provides scholarships to students from war-torn nations.