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Venezuelan forces seized control of San Cristobal, the key opposition city

National Police chief Manuel Perez said 250 soldiers and police participated in Sunday's operation and that 11 people were detained.

Venezuela march 30 2014Enlarge
Protesters confront with police during a protest against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on March 30, 2014. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan security forces have cleared barricades from the western city that launched the first in a wave of national anti-government protests, a military commander said Monday.

Vladimir Padrino, head of the armed forces' strategic operations command, said that police and the national guard had removed the blockades in three key avenues of San Cristobal late Sunday.

"We have ended the curfew imposed by terrorism in Carabobo, Ferrero Tamayo and Espana de SC avenues without (causing) victims," Padrino wrote on Twitter.

An independent journalist in San Cristobal and a member of the Penal Forum non-governmental organization confirmed that government forces had moved against the barricades.

Raquel Sanchez, of the Penal Forum, said the streets were cleared after a "disproportionate deployment."

National Police chief Manuel Perez said 250 soldiers and police participated in Sunday's operation and that 11 people were detained.

The crackdown came two weeks after authorities arrested San Cristobal's opposition mayor, Daniel Ceballos, on charges that he failed to take action against the barricades.

Students launched the first protest on February 4 to denounce the country's runaway crime rate after the attempted rape of a young woman.

Since then, ordinary residents of San Cristobal have built barricades made of tree trunks, metal fences and trash across the city.

The San Cristobal protest inspired demonstrations in other parts of the country against President Nicolas Maduro, demanding solutions to the country's violence, food shortages and soaring inflation. Protesters have also demanded the release of jailed protesters.

The protests have often turned violent, leaving at least 39 people dead.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/venezuela/140331/venezuela-forces-seize-control-key-opposition-town