CARACAS May 5 U.S. automaker Ford has
halted operations in Venezuela on Monday due to a lack of
foreign currency to import parts for assembly, workers at its
Like other private businesses in Venezuela, carmakers have
been complaining that the socialist government's currency
controls are preventing them from importing essential products
due to restrictions and delays in purchases of dollars.
Workers, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity,
said the plant in the central city of Valencia would be
paralyzed until the end of May.
Transport Minister Haiman El Troudi confirmed the stoppage
at the plant but said it should reopen in two weeks after a
meeting between Ford representatives and government officials
that resolved some "critical bottlenecks."
The minister said state currency board Cencoez would release
$20 million in debt to Ford this week.
Toyota Motor Corp halted vehicle assembly in
Venezuela in February for the same reasons.
Venezuela's struggling auto industry saw first-quarter
production fall 76 percent to just 3,424 vehicles, compared with
14,316 units in the same period of 2013, according to national
automakers' organization Cavenez.
Ford assembled only 499 cars in the first three months of
Automobiles are just one sector of many where President
Nicolas Maduro's government is facing clamor to release more
dollars for imports. He says unscrupulous businessmen exaggerate
needs in order to flip dollars on the black market for profit.
But nevertheless ministers are holding urgent meetings with
business heads to try and resolve problems and help reverse the
slide in local production.
Venezuela operates three exchange controls - at 6.3 bolivars
per dollar for preferential goods, and at around 11 and 50 for
other sectors via two Central Bank mechanisms.
The dollar is trading at about 66-68 bolivars on the black
market, according to illegal web sites that track it.
General Motors, Mitsubishi, and Fiat
Chrysler also have assembly plants in Venezuela.
(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne;
Editing by Cynthia Osterman)