Venezuela made a provocative move on Wednesday when they announced that they’ve seized the country’s General Motors factory, which puts an end to their operations in the South American country. General Motors called this an “illegal jusicial seizure of its assets”, and this does seem like a rash move superficially. Some analysts believe that this is part of an effort to focus media attention on U.S.-Venezuela relations and away from the massive protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Other automakers in the country, such as Ford and Toyota, have yet to be interfered with by the Venezuelan government.
According to General Motors, Venezuela took vehicles and other equipment from their facilities in the country. The plant’s 2700 workers were immediately laid off following the seizure. The company plans to file legal action, although legal experts doubt that much can be done. “They can go to the courts here in the United States and try to seek action. But that really is not going to be effective unless the Venezuelan government has some assets here,” said Peter Quinter of the Miami law firm GrayRobinson’s Customs and International Trade Law Group. The last such incident in Venezuela occurred in 2014, when the government seized the assets of cleaning products maker Clorox. Clorox decided to exit the Venezuelan market entirely rather than recoup their losses. “I would suspect GM is not… going to be the last because the government of Venezuela is desperate for any assets they can take,” Quinter opined.
Protests have been going on for a week over allegations of Maduro jailing opposition party members and fixed elections. The protests haven’t been helped by rising crime rates, inflation and food and utility shortages that have become more common during the Maduro administration. At least three protesters were killed on Tuesday, some speculating government forces were responsible.