GM quits Venezuela after government seizes its factory

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Past year saw impoverished Venezuelan citizens losing an average of 21 pounds from starvation. The opposition blames the deaths on security forces and alleged paramilitary groups.

Police in Venezuela have fired tear gas during the second day of violent protests in the capital, Caracas.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused a foreign-owned telecommunications firm of helping to orchestrate mass protests against his government. The move to seize the powers of the only lever of state authority not controlled by Maduro unleashed long-simmering anger and sparked the fiercest protests against him in three years.

The venue depends on what treaties, if any, govern the investment, he said.

Venezuela's government has not commented on GM's statement.

Venezuelan officials offered no explanation for its seizure of the GM plant.

Morales also said foreign and domestic attacks against President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution are meant to send a threatening message to anti-imperialist governments around the world.

Maduro, a leftist who is facing the fiercest protests against him in three years, has promised to boost the armed forces, police, and civilian defence groups to guard against what he says is an attempt to overthrow "21st century Socialism".

The Venezuelan opposition is also up in arms over the government's refusal to schedule regional elections, which were supposed to have been held months ago. "We'll see who tires out first".

Then in late March, the Supreme Court issued a ruling nullifying the body altogether.

The Detroit automaker says in a statement Thursday that other assets such as vehicles were taken from the plant, causing irreparable damage.

Hundreds of workers desperate for information about their jobs gathered at the plant on Thursday to meet with government and military officials, as well as representatives of the dealership that brought the lawsuit.

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The mayor of the city of San Cristóbal, Patricia Gutiérrez, reported that a young woman died after being shot, allegedly by supporters of the Venezuelan government.

Maduro said Wednesday he was ready to face his opponents at the ballot box.

"In addition to this, other activities of the company, such as cars, were illegally removed", she said.

Auto manufacturing virtually has come to a halt in Venezuela in a broader economic collapse under Maduro. But the sharp deterioration of the economy, which has put many foods and medicines out of the reach of the average citizen, and a more organized and united opposition coalition have injected fresh energy into the current protests.

The corporate exodus from Venezuela is a striking reversal for an oil country that defined Latin American conspicuous consumption to the world through its lavish soap operas.

They were met by curtains of tear gas and rubber bullets as they tried to march to central Caracas.

Looting also erupted Wednesday and Thursday, with businesses ransacked in western Caracas and people carting off food and beer, residents said.

The situation has left many foreign companies debating whether to stay.

There are around 2,700 workers employed in GM's Venezuela plant. Ford suspended operations at its Valencia plant in December because of slumping sales.

Company managers in Venezuela said they haven't been able to obtain hard currency to import parts through the country's labyrinthine currency controls for years.

GM has been in Venezuela for 69 years. South American sales represent only about 6% of total sales. Last year, GM lost $400 million before taxes in South America, but overall it made a pretax profit of $12.5 billion.

Investors apparently shrugged off the plant seizure as GM shares rose 1.3% to $34.22 in trading Thursday.

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