Detroit-based General Motors (GM) has halted operations in Venezuela after authorities seized its factory in the industrial city of Valencia.

The excuse for taking the plant was a 20-year old lawsuit lawsuit brought by a former GM dealership in western Venezuela.  But the move came as anti-government protesters clashed with security forces and citizens supporting the government of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro in Valencia and around the country.  GM says it will take whatever action is necessary to protect its interests.  The Venezuelan government has had no comment.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington is reviewing the details of the original lawsuit, and is calling on authorities "to ensure that this long-running civil case is resolved rapidly and transparently".  Other US officials are blasting the Maduro government and calling on Caracas to restore the plan to GM. 

The Valencia factory hasn't produced a car since 2015 but GM still has 79 dealers that employ 3,900 people in Venezuela