February 23, 2018

Venezuela says Movistar sent mass messages calling for protests

21 April 2017, 08:42 | Taylor George

The company claims that the seizure took place in total disregard of its right to due process and has caused an irreparable damage to its 2600 plus workers and 79 dealers across the country.

The auto manufacturer is the latest multinational company to report major problems in Venezuela, which has been devastated by food scarcities, massive inflation and weeks of bloody street protests against President Nicolas Maduro and his leftist government. There was no immediate reaction from Washington or Venezuela's government.

The automaker suspended operations at its Valencia, Venezuela, plant in December due to slumping sales. GM has operated in Venezuela for almost 70 years, employing 2,700 people there and operating 79 dealerships.

We may be about to find out as General Motors is headed for a battle with the government of Venezuela.

But the sharp deterioration of the economy, which has put many foods and medicines out of the reach of the average citizen, and a more organized and united opposition coalition have injected fresh energy into the current protests.

Venezuela's Minister of Interior said recent attacks against civilians and police were planned by the opposition after three people were killed on Wednesday. In other words, GM's assets in the country are frozen, but authorities emphasize that the plant should continue production.

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On Wednesday, the factory was "unexpectedly seized by the Venezuelan authorities, preventing normal operations", GM's spokesperson in Brazil, Julia Bastos, said Thursday in an email. Protesters accuse Maduro of eroding democracy and mismanaging the country's increasingly cash-strapped economy. They were met by a curtain of tear gas and rubber bullets as they tried to march to downtown Caracas.

The renewed wave of protests was sparked by a supreme court move in March to assume the powers of the opposition-led Congress, a move that it largely reversed a few days later. Among the victims were a 17-year-old boy and a 23-year-old woman, both shot in the head in separate incidents.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was "concerned" Mr Maduro's government was "violating its own constitution and not allowing the opposition to ... organise in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people". The government has repeatedly blocked any attempts by the opposition to oust Maduro by a referendum vote.

The move has energized Venezuela's fractious opposition, which had been struggling to channel growing disgust with Maduro over widespread food shortages, triple-digit inflation and rampant crime. Maduro has been accused by the opposition of behaving like a dictator.

"The main concern about this situation is simply that everyone at General Motors is safe and stays safe", she said.

On Wednesday alone, 565 protesters were arrested nationwide, according to Penal Forum, a local group that provides legal assistance to detainees.

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