Amid ongoing protests and a collapsing economy, Venezuela has nationalized the country’s General Motors plant. The move has drawn condemnation from GM, which has halted operations, and from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has accused Nicolas Maduro’s government of “violating its own constitution.” One suspects that an appeal to legal principle will have little chance of moving Maduro.
The socialist dictator’s grip on power appears increasingly tenuous, and asset grabs such as this one will do little to reverse the fundamental dysfunction in the Venezuelan economy. Perhaps more important to his overall strategy will be the distribution of seized civilian arms to the government-loyal “militias” on which Maduro is relying on as the protests escalate. Even in one of the areas in which he is most popular, Maduro has faced protesters armed with rocks.
It does not look good on the ground. Those participating in the so-called “mother of all protests” have suffered waves of arrests and injuries — and at least two have been killed by government-aligned militias. At the everyday level, the people are languishing nationwide from shortages of everything from food to toilet paper. Seizing a car plant might put a dent in GM’s stock, but it will do little else besides.