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You'll have to get the trim piece that goes around the latch off. It just snaps off. If you push up on the bottom while you're pulling out on it the retainers should disengage. Push down on the top while pulling out should allow you to remove it. If you look in the tailgate under the latch you should see two rods one going left and one going right. They are held on the latch with plastic clips. The clip for the right rod is probably broke and the rod disconnected. Assuming that is the case you can lift up on the latch to release the left side while reaching a finger in under the latch to push the right rod left. This should allow you to open the tailgate. Once it's open you can remove three bolts on the inside of the tailgate and diconnect the left rod allowing you to remove the latch. I was told by a GM parts guy that those clips are only available with the complete latch. I found one at a parts store (Carquest) that I could make work. The GM dealer had a similar clip but I couldn't make it work plus the clip was over $5 wholesale. Hopefully that will work for you.
My "Release Rod" clips came apart on my truck in the center, and it was a relatively easy fix. Just remember to put the clip in the hole, then put the release rod in and then clip it. When the clip came apart out by where the latch is at the side of the tailgate, this was a little tricky. I got lucky and was able to snag the latch using the release rod as a tool held with a small set of vice grips. When I took the thing apart, I realized the latch can be sprung from the outside with a long slim screw driver. If you look at the latch in the where it holds onto the lug, you'll see a little crack when looking down from the inside out under where the lug is held by the latch. This crack is a tripper holding the latch closed, if you jam your screw driver into that crack and separate it, it will unlatch the tailgate thus allowing you to remove it and replace the plastic part that holds the release rod in the latch release. You can buy the clips for $3 at any auto parts store. No need to buy the whole handle thingy ma bob.
You should be able to pry it off. Be careful, if you break the latches when it pops off you will have to replace it. Look on the opposite side of the tailgate and there should be a plate screwed to the tailgate. It is almost the size of the tailgate.
If you remove the ring around the handle you will get a better view of the two rods that connect the handle to the outter latches.The ring just snaps in.I think a flat head screw driver from the bottom works the best.Once you have access to the rods you can push the inward twords each other to pop the gate.If the are broken out twords the tail lights then a thin flat head in the gap betwen the tail lights and tail gate should be able to push the spring loaded latches in to pop the gate,but you may need to borrow a extra set of hands.Well hope this helps.
There are two Possibilites with this issue ... Either the latches are bound or rusted and can be lubricated with lithium grease after cleaning or the plastic retaining clips may have broken inside your tailgate. To locate these, remove the three bolts holding in the latch assembly and inspect the clips attached to the two control rods that will latch/release your tailgate. I have found spraying white litium grease every three months into the latches of my tailgate has eliminated the same problem on my truck.
Sounds like you have a bar disconnected inside the hatch. You may also need a latch itself. Does it lock and unlock? If it does, most likely a bar off issue. Will be a pain to get the cover off with the door closed, but you will need to remove it to inspect.
I have a 2002 Chevy 3500 and the same thing happened to me. It turns out the latching mechanism on the left side would not release when I pulled on the latch handle. I stuck a small screwdriver in there to release the latch handle (as I pulled on the latch handle) and it popped open. I then squirted some WD-40 on that latch mechanism because it was hung up. I didn't have any problems after that.