GM says Venezuela has seized its car plant

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General Motors says it will immediately halt operations in Venezuela after its plant in the country was unexpectedly seized by authorities.

GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”  The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

“[GM] 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,” it said in a statement.

Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not immediately clear why authorities seized the GM plant. Huge swaths of Venezuela’s economy have been nationalized in the years since former President Hugo Chavez rose to power. Under Chavez, who took office in 1999, the state took control of private oil, telecommunications, energy and cement businesses.

President Nicolas Maduro has continued the tradition, while blaming the United States and its companies for Venezuela’s economic and political problems.

“Government decision making is increasingly incoherent. It’s difficult to understand the rationale,” said Nicolas Watson, head of Latin American research at Teneo Intelligence.

Automakers in the country have struggled because they’ve been unable to access U.S. dollars to import parts, said Watson.

The GM plant in Valencia employs nearly 2,700 workers, but stopped producing cars in 2015 and has only been selling spare parts since then, a company spokesperson said.

GM said it would make “separation payments” to its workers.  CNN

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