CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's government said Friday night that it has seized a factory belonging to Clorox just days after the U.S. company announced it was shutting down operations in the country due to its economic crisis.
Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on national television that the socialist government acted to save some 800 jobs after what he called the illegal abandonment of the country by the Oakland, California-based Clorox Co.
"We broke the padlocks and went in," Arreaza said. "They left Venezuela and we couldn't even talk to anyone except with a representative in Argentina on a video conference."
Clorox said this week that it was ending operations in Venezuela and looking to sell its local affiliate after struggling for years with rigid price and currency controls and galloping inflation that made it impossible to turn a profit.
Dozens of fired workers have blocked traffic this week and protested outside the gates of the Clorox factory near Caracas demanding they get their jobs back.
Pro-government lawmakers accustomed to railing against foreign multinationals also denounced the move, which came as Venezuela struggles with widespread shortages of basic consumer products. The legislators pointed to government accounts saying the U.S. company had received $21 million since 2004 as a sign Clorox has been repatriating profits at the expense of Venezuela's development.
While other businesses have complained about economic mismanagement in oil-rich Venezuela, Clorox is the first major company to pull up stakes. The company has been operating in the country since 1990 and is a major seller of home cleaning products to Venezuelans.
Representatives from the company in Venezuela and the United States did not immediately comment on the factory's seizure.