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By Will Racke
General Motors denounced the Venezuelan government Thursday for what it called an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets” by public authorities.
The U.S. automaker halted operations at its auto plant in the industrial hub of Valencia when state officials took over the facility amid massive public protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“Yesterday, GMV’s (General Motors Venezolana) plant was unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations,” GM said in a statement. “In addition, other assets of the company, such as vehicles, have been illegally taken from its facilities.”
GM Venezolana was established in 1948 and employs about 2,700 workers and has 79 dealers in the country, USA TODAY reported. The company says it will make “separation payments” to workers affected by the Valencia plant’s closure and plans to pursue legal action against the Venezuelan government.
“GMV strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” the company said.
The seizure coincides with widespread unrest in the South American country. Three people were killed Wednesday as police and security forces clashed with tens of thousands of Venezuelans who took the streets to demand new presidential elections and the release of political dissidents from prison.
Oil-rich Venezuela has seen its economy crash under the socialist rule of the Maduro regime. The country is experiencing severe shortages of basic goods and services on top of soaring inflation. Venezuela is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world with a U.N.-estimated murder rate of 54 per 100,000 residents, the second highest after Honduras.
Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have seized the assets of foreign companies on several occasions, including a “temporary” takeover of two plants owned by U.S. company Clorox in 2014.
Venezuela faces around 20 international arbitration cases due to nationalizations ordered by Chavez, according to CNBC.