General Motors has stopped operations in Venezuela after its only plant there was illegally seized by authorities, the automaker says in a statement.
The seizure happened Wednesday, as the “mother of all protests” brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to demonstrate against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
GM announced the plant confiscation Thursday, saying its plant in Valencia, Venezuela, “was unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations,” according to Voice of America. “In addition, other assets of the company, such as vehicles, have been illegally taken from its facilities,” GM said.
The company said the illegal confiscation of its assets would cause “irreparable damage” to GM, its dealers and suppliers, and nearly 2,700 employees of the plant.
Venezuela’s government has not commented on GM’s statement.
NPR’s Philip Reeves has more:
“GM is the market leader in Venezuela, employing thousands in its plant and dealerships. GM suppliers also have a big chunk of the auto parts market.
“Venezuelans have long suffered chronic shortages of food and medicine. Getting vehicle parts is also often very difficult — and may now be harder still.”
GM plans to fight the seizure in court, The Associated Press reports.
The AP also notes that the GM in plant in Valencia “hasn’t produced a single car” since 2015.
“Like most carmakers in the oil-producing nation, it has seen production grind to a halt as the cash-strapped government chokes off its access to dollars needed to import parts and repatriate profits,” the news service writes. “Nationwide, car makers assembled just 2,849 cars last year, from a peak of 172,218 vehicles in 2007.”
This isn’t the first time Venezuela’s government has seized foreign-owned factories.
“In 2014 the government announced the ‘temporary’ takeover of two plants belonging to U.S. cleaning products maker Clorox Co, which had left the country,” Reuters reports. “Venezuela faces around 20 arbitration cases over nationalizations under late leader Hugo Chavez.”
Meanwhile, the street protests on Wednesday were marked by violent conflict, with multiple deaths reported, as NPR’s Colin Dwyer wrote:
“But the protesters who showed up Wednesday vowed to keep struggling against Maduro and voicing their displeasure with the state of the country.
” ‘This is exhausting — but we won’t give up until we achieve a better country and democracy,’ Luiza Mayorca, a lawyer and mother of three, told NPR’s Phil Reeves in Caracas. ‘Every time we do something, that’s what we feel: that the worst thing would be to stay home, let fear take over us. This government, this regime, is making life miserable, and we cannot accept it.’ …
”By several media accounts, hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro demonstrators flooded city streets to protest bread scarcity, ballooning inflation — which several estimates peg at triple digits — and what they see as an increasingly dictatorial regime.”