Some US companies that have left or scaled back in Venezuela

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"I would suspect GM is not the first and they're not going to be the last because the government of Venezuela is desperate for any assets they can take", Peter Quinter, chair of law firm GrayRobinson's Customs and International Trade Law Group, told the Detroit Free Press.

On Wednesday, a Venezuelan court in the western state of Zulia ordered the American company's assets frozen and its property seized, deciding against GM in a suit filed by a former GM dealer in 2000, according to Venezuelan news accounts.

Pressure on Maduro has been mounting since 2014, as falling prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports have sent the once-booming economy into a tailspin.

According to commentators, though the company has said it would defend itself legally, getting compensated could be extremely hard. PDVSA recently put up a almost 50 percent stake in Citgo as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan from the Russian company Rosneft, drawing criticism from USA legislators who worry a default by Citgo would allow Russian leader Vladimir Putin to get a foothold in the American oil industry. Since then, Exxon and Venezuela have been locked in a long legal battle, with the latest worldwide tribunal ruling in favor of Venezuela, who won an appeal on a $1.4 billion payment to Exxon Mobil in March. It said 334 remained in jail as of Thursday.

The venue depends on what treaties, if any, govern the investment, he said.

Mass anti-government demonstrations were held across Venezuela on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Venezuela's Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for information. Economic slowdown has resulted in severe political unrest in the country as well. The cash-strapped government has choked off vehicle companies' access to dollars needed to import parts and repatriate profits. Nationwide, auto makers assembled just 2,849 cars in 2016, from a peak of 172,218 in 2007. The neglected factory hasn't 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. The automaker also has 79 dealers with 3,900 workers.

The seizure arose from an nearly 20-year-old lawsuit brought by a former GM dealership in western Venezuela. GM says that the plant had stopped making cars recently, presumably due to deteriorating economic conditions. The company says it will make "separation payments" to workers affected by the closure of its manufacturing plant and plans to pursue legal action against the Venezuelan government.

"We are reviewing the details of the case", Toner said in a statement, saying the United States hoped to resolve the matter "rapidly and transparently".

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.

In the recent past, several multi-national companies have either pulled out or have been forced to stop operations. Ford suspended operations at its Valencia plant in December because of slumping sales. Toyota said its lone factory in Cumana, Venezuela, continues to operate normally.

"Absent an ability to obtain USA dollars in the near term, which we believe is unlikely, current vehicle production will likely cease in July", a 2015 GM quarterly financial filing read, though the notice added, "production continues in Venezuela and no decision has been made to cease operations". Last year, GM lost $400 million before taxes in South America, but overall it made a pretax profit of $12.5 billion.

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