General Motors says Venezuela illegally seizes vehicle plant and assets

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General Motors has shut down operations in Venezuela after it says authorities illegally seized its plant there, fueling growing concerns about the ability of global companies to do business amid the country's deepening political and economic crisis.

GM called the expropriation of its plant "an illegal judicial seizure of its assets" and vowed legal action to defend itself.

GM has about 2,700 workers in the country, where it's been the market leader for over 35 years. It employs almost 2,700 people and has 79 dealers in the country, according to CNN. "His response to a rogue nation taking over the assets of a brand name USA company will be indicative of the road it wants to take with Venezuela".

The Venezuelan government, which frequently blames big business for the country's economic crisis, hasn't commented on the move, which took place amid deadly nationwide antigovernment protests. Even in one of the areas in which he is most popular, Maduro has faced protesters armed with rocks.

"If today we were millions, tomorrow even more of us need to come out", said opposition governor and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who last week was barred from running for office for 15 years.

On Wednesday, a Venezuelan court in the western state of Zulia ordered the American company's assets frozen and its property seized, siding against GM in a suit filed by a former GM dealer in 2000, according to Venezuelan news accounts.

Watson said that automakers in the country have struggled because they've been unable to access USA dollars to import parts, said Watson.

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A statement issued Thursday by spokesman Stephane Dujarric calls on the Venezuelan government and opposition to "engage sincerely to reactivate dialogue efforts, " especially on issues such as the balance of power among branches of government, the electoral calendar, human rights, truth and justice and the country's socio-economic situation".

Venezuela's vehicle industry has been in freefall, hit by a lack of raw materials stemming from complex currency controls and stagnant local production, and many plants are barely producing at all. Nationwide, auto makers assembled 2,849 cars a year ago, from a peak of 172,218 in 2007.

Coca-Cola has recorded multiple losses in recent years from its Venezuela business, and it temporarily halted production there last year due to a lack of sugar supply in the country.

"We are reviewing the details of the case", Toner said in a statement, saying the United States hoped to resolve the case "rapidly and transparently".

The Valencia plant employed some 2,700 workers, but had stopped producing cars in 2015.

But in the past year, they've shut down some of the rigs that dredge up Venezuela's oil, citing unpaid bills from the government.

Associated Press writer Juan Carlos Hernandez reported this story in Valencia and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported from Caracas.

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