GM: Venezuela Not Selling Enough Import Dollars

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- General Motors Corp.'s Venezuela affiliate said Tuesday that authorities will sell the company $430 million in dollars to import parts -- but that won't be enough to pay down debts and restart operations.

The Venezuelan government has promised to supply GM with $430 million through December 2009, GM's president in Venezuela, Ronaldo Znidarsis, told reporters.

But the gesture "doesn't resolve the problem," Znidarsis said. GM has accumulated some $1.15 billion in debts to foreign providers, he said -- prompting the company to halt its Venezuela car production on Friday.

"International providers will not send us any more material until we present them with a concrete payment plan for outstanding debts," Znidarsis said upon leaving a meeting with Venezuelan lawmakers over his company's situation.

Under currency controls imposed by President Hugo Chavez in 2003, Venezuelans must apply to a government agency for dollars to import goods or take vacations abroad.

But with oil prices at 53 percent July's peak, authorities have been rationing that currency, and automakers and other importers have been complaining for months of growing debts with providers. Venezuela relies on oil for 93 percent of exports.

On Friday, GM halted operations at its car assembly plant in central Carabobo state for three months -- but said the shutdown could last longer if the company doesn't start receiving dollars. A smaller plant that produces trucks in a nearby town will continue operations.

GM is the country's largest automaker, producing more than half of the 54,000 cars assembled in the first five months of 2009, according to Venezuela's Automotive Chamber.

Since May, the government has sold GM $120 million -- allowing the company to reduce its debt with foreign providers by 9 percent to $1.15 billion, Znidarsis said.

He said the longer debts are stalled, the longer operations will be halted -- but added that a four-week shutdown wouldn't put the company in a "very critical" situation.

Venezuela's government said Monday that it will sell $2 billion worth of dollars to the country's automotive sector this year.

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