Stretch, grab a late afternoon cup of caffeine and get caught up on the most important news of the day with our Coffee Break newsletter. These are the stories that will fill you in on the world that's spinning outside of your office window - at the moment that you get a chance to take a breath.
Sign up now to save time and stay informed!

GM Pulls Out of Venezuela After Socialist Government Seizes Plant

General Motors (GM) has announced it will immediately halt all operations in Venezuela after the country's socialist government seized its plant in the country, a move GM described as an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets."

"[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights," the company said in a statement.

GM's Venezuelan subsidiary, General Motors Venezolana (GMV), has operated in that country for nearly 70 years. It employs nearly 2,700 workers and has 79 dealers in the country, CNN Money reported. The company promised to make "separation payments" to its workers after pulling the plug on GMV.

This is merely the latest government seizure of a private company in the country with the world's largest oil reserves but a self-imposed big-government recession. Under the late President Hugo Chavez, who took power in 1999, the government took over private oil, telecommunications, energy, and cement businesses.

In recent years under President Nicolás Maduro, the government has seized bakeries amidst a bread shortage, taken over toilet paper factories amid a toilet paper shortage, and repressed the political opposition.

Indeed, the opposition launched "the mother of all protests" on Wednesday, accusing Maduro of creating a dictatorship. The government has blocked their attempts to remove Maduro from power by a referendum vote, and it has also delayed local and state elections. The last election held in the country was the parliamentary election of 2015, which gave the opposition a majority in the legislature.

On March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved the Parliament, taking legislative power on itself. While this was reversed three days later, protests had already erupted.

The government also barred opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding political office for the next 15 years. So far, at least four people have been killed in protests.

In a tragic irony, Maduro declared he would provide guns to as many as 400,000 of his supporters, effectively reversing a 2012 firearms ban which only allowed the military, police, and groups like security companies to purchase guns. After the gun ban, passed allegedly to decrease crime, the murder rate increased. But this week, Maduro provided guns to his supporters — in order to suppress dissent.

As CNN Money reported, it was not immediately clear why authorities in Venezuela seized the GM plant, but Maduro has in the past blamed the United States and its companies for the country's economic and political problems.

Many global firms have pulled out of the country or been forced to halt operations in recent decades due to government interference. ExxonMobil left in 2007 after Chavez attempted to nationalize one of its projects. It later took the government to court. In May of last year, Coca-Cola was forced to halt production of Coke due to sugar shortages.