Venezuela seizes General Motors plant in Valencia

VENEZUELA

General Motors denounced the Venezuelan government Thursday for what it called an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets" by public authorities.

The Venezuelan government has offered no explanation for its seizure of the GM plant, and the timing of the move suggests Maduro may be looking to escalate his confrontation with the United States to try to move attention away from the intensifying protests against him.

In recent years under President Nicolás Maduro, the government has seized bakeries amidst a bread shortage, taken over toilet paper factories amid a toilet paper shortage, and repressed the political opposition.

GM's Venezuelan subsidiary, General Motors Venezolana (GMV), has operated in that country for almost 70 years.

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Indeed, the opposition launched "the mother of all protests" on Wednesday, accusing Maduro of creating a dictatorship. He said, it "was unexpectedly taken by authorities, preventing normal operations".

News of the closure of what was once the pride of Venezuela's manufacturing caused more indignation on the streets of eastern Caracas, where thousands of antigovernment demonstrators gathered Thursday for the latest in a series of protests calling for an end to 18 years of Socialist Party rule.

The seizure comes amid a deepening economic crisis in leftist-led Venezuela that has already roiled many USA companies. GM says that it will seek legal action, but it isn't likely to get anywhere. The vast bulk of the seized companies have since closed, contributing to an unprecedented economic crisis rocking the country. Huge swaths of Venezuela's economy have been nationalized in the years since former President Hugo Chavez rose to power.

A motorcyclist rides past the General Motors' plant in Valencia, Venezuela, Thursday, April 20, 2017.

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It's not the first time the Venezuelan government has seized a foreign corporation's facilities.

Production at the GM plant in the city of Valencia had virtually halted due to government import restrictions and shortages of raw materials.

The Venezuelan government has not commented yet on the matter, and so far there aren't many details on why it happened.

The Venezuelan government had said that Kimberly-Clark Corp failed to consult with them before letting go of the workers.

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Another five people have been killed in the three weeks of protests sparked by a Supreme Court decision to strip the opposition-controlled Congress of its last remaining powers, a move that was later reversed amid a storm of worldwide criticism. The government last year abruptly postponed regional elections the opposition was heavily favored to win and cut off a petition drive to force a referendum seeking Maduro's removal before elections late next year.

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