World Media

Young man is 9th fatality in Venezuela protests this month

Young man is 9th fatality in Venezuela protests this month

General Motors in a statement said: "As a effect, GMV announces the immediate cessation of its operations in the country, and ensures (as far as the authorities permit) payment of the employees' separation benefits arising from the termination of the employment relationships due to causes beyond the parties' control".

Venezuela's government has claimed that armed gangs, allegedly hired by the opposition, have attacked a maternity hospital, amid protests that continue against the government across the Latin American country. Like most carmakers in the oil-producing nation, it has seen production grind to a halt as the cash-strapped government chokes off its access to dollars needed to import parts and repatriate profits.

While it remains unclear what comes next, Venezuela's seizure of GM's facility might be a sign.

Adan Tortolero, a member of General Motors' workers union, addresses employees Thursday at the company's plant in Valencia, Venezuela.

This is all very bad news for the company's 2,678 workers, its 79 dealers (Venezuela's largest service network with more than 3,900 workers), and its suppliers (which represent more than 55% of the country's auto parts industry).

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"The opposition, even with fewer people than yesterday, can still exert serious pressure on the government", he said.

The neglected factory has not produced a vehicle since 2015, but GM still has 79 dealers that employ 3,900 people in Venezuela, where for decades it was the market leader.

"In other words, we are twice out of control of our plant", Tahan said.

Opposition leaders blame the government for Venezuela's high inflation, rampant crime and shortages of basic goods.

Nationwide, auto makers assembled just 2,849 cars past year, from a peak of 172,218 vehicles in 2007.

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Tens of thousands of protesters have been on the streets of Venezuela's capital, but all eyes have focused on just one person - a young man who stripped down to his sneakers and walked naked through clouds of tear gas and lines of riot police. The dealership had been seeking damages from GM of 476 million bolivars - about $665 million at the official exchange rate, or $115 million on the black market where many Venezuelans are forced to turn to sell their increasingly worthless currency.

GM isn't the only company affected by Venezuela's deteriorating economy. Venezuelans living in extreme poverty lost an average of 21 pounds of weight a year ago due to lack of food, according to ENCOVI, a polling firm in Venezuela. The deadly protests began in response to the government banning the Leader of the Opposition from office for 15 years; a move which began to frame the actions of Nicolas Maduro as those of a dictator. Ford suspended operations at its Valencia plant in December because of slumping sales.

The country is now in crisis mode: Its economy shrank by 18% in 2016 - the third consecutive year of recession. Here's a look at some of the other US companies that have ceased or reduced operations in the South American country as economic conditions there deteriorate.

The automaker said the seizure showed a "total disregard" of its legal rights. Last year, GM lost $400 million before taxes in South America, but overall it made a pretax profit of $12.5 billion.

Investors apparently shrugged off the plant seizure as GM shares rose 1.3% to $34.22 in trading Thursday.

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