Authorities in Venezuela have taken control of a US cereal production plant owned by Kellogg’s after the cereal giant announced it was closing the plant due to the nation’s worsening economic situation.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the closure was ‘absolutely unconstitutional and illegal’. He had earlier accused the US of waging economic war against Venezuela.

According to Maduro, the production plant will continue operations and has been placed under the control of the factory workers. However, employees of the factory said that they had been prevented from entering the facility, located in the central city of Maracay.

Ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, Maduro told a crowd of supporters: “We’ve begun judicial proceedings against the business leaders of Kellogg’s because their exit is unconstitutional. I’ve taken the decision to deliver the company to the workers in order that they can continue producing for the people.”

Venezuela’s economic situation has been worsening recently, with the country recording one of the highest inflation rates worldwide, hit by falling oil revenues and the devaluation of the national currency the bolivar.

Kellogg’s is reportedly the latest multinational corporation to pull out of Venezuela, with a number of companies reducing operations. Strict currency controls, a lack of raw materials for production and rising inflation rates have all added to food manufacturer’s poor performance.

A spokesperson for Kellogg’s said that the company hoped to return in the future and expressed concern of the sale of cereal brands in Venezuela ‘without the expressed authorisation of the Kellogg Company’.

In 2016, the Venezuelan Government seized a plant owned by Texas-based hygiene products maker Kimberly-Clark, after an announcement that the company would be halting operations in Venezuela as it was unable to source raw materials.

Last month, Kimberly-Clark requested to begin arbitration proceedings against Venezuela, to be reviewed by the World Bank’s arbitration panel.

Maduro has blamed his country’s financial troubles on an ‘economic war’ that has been waged by foreign governments and businesses. Critics respond that the worsening situation was caused by the United Socialist Party’s mismanagement of the economy, led by Maduro.