General Motors says Venezuela illegally seizes auto plant

CARACAS, April 19 (Reuters) - General Motors said on Wednesday that Venezuelan authorities had illegally seized its plant in the industrial hub of Valencia and vowed to "take all legal actions" to defend its rights.

The seizure comes amid a deepening economic crisis in leftist-led Venezuela that has already roiled many U.S. companies.

"Yesterday, GMV's (General Motors Venezolana) plant was unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations. In addition, other assets of the company, such as vehicles, have been illegally taken from its facilities," the company said in a statement.

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Opposition supporters clash with police during protests against unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Police help an injured colleague during clashes with opposition supporters during protests against unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
A demonstrator is detained by riot police officers during the so called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Police help an injured colleague during clashes with opposition supporters during protests against unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro in San Cristobal, Venezuela April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
Opposition demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello
Riot police take position while clashing with opposition demonstrators during the so called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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An opposition demonstrator throws a petrol bomb while clashing with riot police during the so called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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It said the seizure would cause irreparable damage to the company, its 2,678 workers, its 79 dealers and to its suppliers.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for information.

Venezuela's car industry has been in freefall, hit by a lack of raw materials stemming from complex currency controls and stagnant local production, and many plants are barely producing at all.

In early 2015, Ford Motor Co wrote off its investment in Venezuela when it took an $800 million pre-tax writedown.

RELATED: General Motors Company (GM) stock price

The country's economic crisis has hurt many other U.S. companies, including food makers and pharmaceutical firms. A growing number are taking their Venezuelan operations out off their consolidated accounts.

Venezuela's government has taken over factories in the past. In 2014 the government announced the "temporary" takeover of two plants belonging to U.S. cleaning products maker Clorox Co which had left the country.

Venezuela faces around 20 arbitration cases over nationalizations under late leader Hugo Chavez.

(Reporting by Joe White and Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

RELATED: Gross government debt of Venezuela in percent of GDP

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