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Venezuela says it didn't seize GM plant for state use…

Why Venezuelans are protesting

Venezuela says it has not seized a General Motors plant in the country for state use.

“We didn’t expropriate!” Venezuela’s economic minister, Ramon Lobo, tweeted Thursday night, sharing photos of a meeting with GM workers at the plant.

Venezuelan officials said the plant is actually under “embargada.” In other words, GM’s assets in the country are frozen, but authorities emphasize that the plant should continue production.

But GM isn’t changing tack. The automaker told CNNMoney Friday it stands by its statement on Wednesday, saying Venezuelan authorities had seized its car assembly plant in the country.

GM (GM) shut down operations there because of the alleged illegal seizure, putting 2,678 workers out of work.

Venezuela said it took the action to resolve a long-running dispute involving GM going back to 2000. But officials want the plant to continue production while GM’s assets in Venezuela are frozen.

What’s unclear is how the plant could forge ahead with production given that GM says it has ceased operations.

Related: Venezuela’s latest corporate target: Spain’s Telefonica

The back and forth comes as Venezuela is investigating another foreign firm, phone service provider Movistar, a subsidiary of Spain’s Telefonica. Authorities claim Movistar is supporting opposition leaders protesting against President Nicolas Maduro.

Both Movistar and Telefonica haven’t responded to requests for comment. Movistar has 11 million customers Venezuela — about one-third of the population.

GM and Movistar join a long list of international companies that have been under siege in Venezuela, either from political pressure, unpaid bills or, in most cases, economic stress due to the country’s plunging currency.

The verbal clashes with corporations also come as violent protests continue this week. Three people were killed Wednesday as police quelled protests with tear gas and gun shots. Another mega march is scheduled for Saturday. Protestors want a change of government after the population suffers through food and medical shortages.

–Charles Riley and Ana Melgar contributed reporting to this article

CNNMoney (New York) First published April 21, 2017: 12:33 PM ET


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