As Venezuela descends even further into economic and social turmoil, and as mass demonstrations turn violent, we learned yesterday that General Motors’ Valencia assembly plant is no longer in the hands of General Motors.
The plant, which has sat idle for months, was “unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations,” the automaker stated. Supposedly, the reason for seizing the asset lies in a 17-year-old lawsuit filed by a disgruntled dealer group angry over torn-up contracts. The dealers wanted billions of dollars in compensation — a sum that GM said “exceeds all logic.”
A new report has shed more light on the automaker’s situation, revealing that the government wasn’t the first group to seize the factory and bar the doors.
It was members of one of the GM subsidiary’s unions who first took over the plant, the New York Times reports. A spokesman for General Motors Venezolana said yesterday that the facility had been in the hands of the union members for 42 days. When GM appealed to the government to help end the seizure, Venezuela took the plant for itself, he said.
Company managers are no longer allowed in the building, though union members are.
For years, Venezuela’s increasingly autocratic government has expropriated private businesses in a bid to nationalize vast sectors of its economy, prompting many foreign companies to pull up stakes. GM is only the most recent casualty. Following the seizure, the company has announced the “immediate cessation” of its operations.
As imports into the country dried up, oil prices fell and the country’s currency plunged, food and supply shortages skyrocketed. Of course, anyone with a grasp of world history knows how quickly empty plates can lead to Molotov cocktails and tear gas. The increasingly dire situation has also led to empty driveways. Vehicle sales in Venezuela fell from 112,000 in 2012 to 3,375 last year, according to IHS Automotive data.
Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for IHS Automotive, told the Detroit Free Press that the General Motors Venezolana plant hasn’t produced a vehicle since 2015. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which still maintains a factory in the country, built 37 vehicle last year.
In a statement, GM said it would use all legal resources to “defend its rights.”