GM halts operations in Venezuela after factory is seized

GM says plant in Venezuela has been seized

GM went on to call the actions an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets".

General Motors Venezolana, GM's local subsidiary, was established in 1948 and employs about 2,700 workers and has 79 dealers in the country.

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

President Nicolas Maduro accused Kimberly-Clark of participating in an worldwide plot to damage Venezuela's economy and said his socialist government would provide public funds to the workers at the plant. Last July, the government said it would take over a factory belonging to Kimberly-Clark Corp. after the American personal care giant said it was no longer possible to manufacture because materials weren't available in Venezuela.

Auto production in Venezuela has almost ground to a halt amid the country's economic collapse.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol is blaming an opposition party for the killing of a 23-year-old woman amid ongoing protests in the South American country.

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In several cities, protesters described being terrorized by militia members, some of them armed and circling the protesters on motorcycles. They were met Thursday by a curtain of tear gas and rubber bullets as they attempted to march to downtown Caracas. The U.S. State Department said those who commit human rights abuses and undermine Venezuela's democratic institutions would be held accountable.

Maduro accused Heinz of creating artificial shortages to turn people against his socialist government.

But while GM says the seizure will hurt its dealers, multiple employees at the plant tell NPR that the takeover was actually orchestrated by GM dealers, with the support of a judge and police officers. The company says it will defend itself legally and that it's confident that justice eventually will prevail. GM said assets such as vehicles were taken from the plant, causing the company irreparable damage.

Venezuela has been beset by protests this month after President Nicolas Maduro's administration barred opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding any political office for the next 15 years.

GM reported charges of $720 million in 2015 and $419 million a year earlier related to currency devaluation and asset impairment in Venezuela. Both of those other two deaths were blamed on pro-government groups.

The announcement comes after several people were killed and hundreds were arrested in the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years in Venezuela.

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