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Uruguay's national airline folds, unable to compete

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Uruguay's national airline was finally grounded Friday, no longer able to compete against Argentine and Brazilian carriers as South America suffers from the global economic slowdown.

The government, which had a 25-percent stake in the airline, was left alone to decide Pluna's fate after its private investors bowed out last month. Thursday night, faced with striking airline workers, millions in losses, a lack of new investment and crippling competition from Argentina and Brazil, the government said it could no longer keep operating.

By Friday, Pluna officials had abandoned Montevideo's gleaming international terminal, and its planes were left parked in rows on the tarmac outside.

Now the government of President Jose Mujica is trying to find a solution to the crisis, which leaves Uruguay without its own airline just before the southern hemisphere's winter tourist season. Local media said the government was seeking to liquidate Pluna's assets and sell off its planes.

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