The former Guardian Industries glass factory in Venezuela, which was seized by the country’s socialist government in July 2016, will now be operated by Venvidrio, a state-run company that was created from the takeover of another U.S.-based glass company, Owens-Illinois.

Last week, Venezuela’s Labor Ministry gave Venvidrio the responsibility for restarting operations at the plant in Monagas state, according to reports in Venezuela’s media. Previously, President Nicolas Maduro’s regime had turned the plant over to the firm’s workers, who were to operate it under government supervision for one year.

According to the report, Venvidrio will “refloat” Guardian’s operations. It’s unclear if that’s a reference to repairs to the plant’s glass furnace that the former owner says are needed.

Guardian Industries, in a statement issued in early September 2016, said Venezuela had used a routine maintenance shutdown of the plant’s float glass furnace as a pretext to seize it. (Venezuela claims the company “abandoned” the factory as part of a U.S.-led “economic war” against the country.) Guardian also said it warned Maduro’s government that it could be creating a dangerous situation at the facility for employees and the community if it continued making glass there without completing the maintenance work.

“Float glass plants operate at extremely high temperatures, continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, throughout their operational life,” Guardian said in its statement. “All float glass plants must be temporarily shut down at the end of their operational life in order to undergo major repairs requiring specialized and technical expertise.”

In November, a worker at the facility whom DWM contacted said the plant was “a shell of itself.” Because of a lack of raw materials and the state’s intervention, no glass was being produced, the worker said.

That seemed to be confirmed by other postings on social media.

A Venezuelan Twitter user who appears to be involved with silica mining sent a tweet in early November that read “it is urgent to reactivate the glass plant GUARDIAN OF VENEZUELA S.A., located in Monagas, in case we run out of flat glass.”

In early January, another Venezuelan Twitter user asked “what became or will become of Guardian de Venezuela?”

This tweet from a government official includes a video that’s said to show trucks full of glass leaving the Guardian facility in Venezuela last week.

Venvidrio, the state-owned company that will run the plant, was formerly the Venezuelan operation of U.S. bottle maker Owens-Illinois. The government of former president Hugo Chavez seized two Owens-Illinois plants in October 2010, and in March 2015 the World Bank awarded the Ohio-based company $455 million as compensation. Owens-Illinois has not received any money, and a press release about the case in April 2016 indicated that it might never get any.

Venvidrio will run the Guardian facility until the end of 2017, according to a decision published in Venezuela’s Official Gazette. The order could be extended for an additional year.

Guardian established its Venezuela plant in 1990. It has the capacity to produce 450 metric tons of float glass per day.

William Nicholson, a former foreign correspondent and bureau chief for The Associated Press in Latin America, translated sources cited in this story.

 

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