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Venezuela seizes nation's only GM factory
22 April 2017, 12:46 | Terri Saunders
General Motors' announcement comes as Venezuela's opposition looks to keep up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, taking to the streets again Thursday a day after the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years.
General Motors said Thursday it will stop doing business in Venezuela after authorities took control of its only factory there.
Decrying the "illegal judicial seizure of its assets" - including the facility's cars - as a "total disregard" of the company's legal rights, GM declared the "immediate cessation of its operations in the country".
The seizure arose from an nearly 20-year-old lawsuit brought by a former GM dealership in western Venezuela.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was "concerned" Mr Maduro's government was "violating its own constitution and not allowing the opposition to ... organise in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people".
Movistar and Telefonica did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Daniela Alvarado, 25, who sells vegetables in the El Valle area, said the looting on Thursday night began after police officers fired tear gas and buckshot at demonstrators blocking a street with burning tires.
GM has about 2,700 workers in Venezuela, where it's been the market leader for over 35 years.
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"This wounded and failed opposition is trying to generate chaos in key areas of the city and convince the world that we're in some sort of civil war, the same playbook used for Syria, for Libya and for Iraq", said Socialist Party official Freddy Bernal in an internet broadcast at 1:00 a.m. "Given the situation in Venezuela these days, it would be really hard to find another job like the one I am doing here at this plant".
"Absent an ability to obtain USA dollars in the near term, which we believe is unlikely, current vehicle production will likely cease in July", a 2015 GM quarterly financial filing read, though the notice added, "production continues in Venezuela and no decision has been made to cease operations".
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused a foreign-owned telecommunications firm of helping to orchestrate mass protests against his government.
"They came here with all the files and documents saying that they have been fighting this since 2000, saying that General Motors has not been fulfilling its contracts", Perdomo said. "We don't know what is on the horizon". GM said it was notified this week a low-level court ordered an embargo of its plant, bank accounts and other assets in the country. He said employees had been guarding it.
Other foreign companies have been targeted by the Venezuelan government. At the time of the seizure, GM was only using the Valencia plant to produce replacement parts. The cash-strapped government has choked off auto companies' access to dollars needed to import parts and repatriate profits. Nationwide, vehicle makers assembled just 2,849 cars in 2016, from a peak of 172,218 in 2007.
The move against GM could further strain relations between Venezuela's leftist government and Washington. It was primarily selling spare parts, according to a GM spokesperson.
The public dissatisfaction with the president is based on a devastating economic crisis, which has left many Venezuelans struggling with severe shortages of food, medicine, and other basic goods, among other economic problems.
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