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Chavez to automakers: Share know-how or leave town

December 23, 2009

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CARACAS, Venezuela—President Hugo Chavez told foreign automakers Wednesday to share their technology with local businesses or they will be told to leave the country.

Chavez gave the ultimatum to Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Fiat during a public ceremony in the Venezuelan capital. There was no immediate response from the companies, which all have assembly plants in Venezuela.

If his demand isn't met, Chavez said, "I invite you to pack up your belongings and leave. I'll bring in the Russians, the Belorusians, the Chinese."

Chavez's government has recently nationalized major companies in the metals, cement, oil, coffee and electricity sectors as it aims to build a socialist economy.

Fiat-controlled Chrysler, GM, Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mack and Iveco all produce vehicles in Venezuela.

Last year, auto plants in Venezuela produced 135,042 cars and trucks. But Venezuela's currency controls have the industry struggling to obtain the cash they need to import enough parts and pay down debts.