Some US companies that have left or scaled back in Venezuela

Some US companies that have left or scaled back in Venezuela

Some US companies that have left or scaled back in Venezuela

GM, America's largest automaker, said it was forced to cease operations in Venezuela because of an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets" and would lay off its 2,700 workers there.

At least three people were killed in shootings during Wednesday's demonstrations across the country, officials and relatives said, bringing the death toll in protests since March 29 to at least nine.

The lawsuit was brought by a former GM dealership in western Venezuela.

GM's revenue in South America has dropped from more than $13 billion in 2014 to $7.2 billion a year ago primarily because of falling sales in Brazil and Venezuela. Vehicles and other assets were also confiscated, causing "irreparable damage".

They were further fuelled when the government barred the opposition's best-known leader, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from holding public office.

Workers attend a meeting Thursday with government officials at the General Motors plant in Valencia, Venezuela.

He too said that the takeover was by dealers - and there's no connection with the Venezuelan government.

"I have asked for an investigation because [Movistar] joined the coup march against the country, and that is not its job", Maduro said.

Records from President Donald Trump's inaugural committee show that, on December 22, 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company donated $500,000 to the American president's inauguration fund.

People demonstrate against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 20, 2017. The Opposition has accused Maduro of letting state forces and gangs of armed thugs violently repress demonstrators as he resists Opposition pressure for him to quit.

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For weeks, opposition demonstrators have held violent protests in several cities across the country, calling for regime change and worldwide intervention. The other two people killed amid Wednesday's demonstrations included a teenager who was heading to a soccer match with friends.

The third fatality was a National Guard sergeant killed overnight when his squad was attacked with gunfire while trying to control disturbances in a suburb of Caracas, the chief prosecutor's office said.

Maduro says that beneath a peaceful facade, the protests are little more than opposition efforts to foment a coup to end socialism in Venezuela. The South American country has recently been hit by food scarcities, soaring inflation and street protests calling for the removal of president Nicolas Maduro and his leftist government.

On Thursday, Maduro said the opposition was ready to begin a political dialogue, which his opponents denied. The government last year abruptly postponed regional elections the opposition was heavily favoured to win and cut off a petition drive to force a referendum seeking Maduro's removal before elections late next year.

This comes days after government detained two protesters, Alejandro Sanchez and his brother Jose, who confessed that lawmakers of the Justice First opposition party gave sums of money to demonstrators to foment violence during the marches.

But the government has not backed down. "We leave our homes with a lot of strength and a lot of faith because protesting is a constitutional and universal right".

As tensions mount, the government is using its almost-complete control of Venezuela's institutions to pursue its opponents.

Foreign governments are also warning about the increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming from the government.

In Washington, the State Department said in a statement that it was reviewing details of the factory seizure and called on Venezuelan authorities to resolve the case "rapidly and transparently".

GM isn't the only company affected by Venezuela's deteriorating economy.

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