Security forces have taken control of a Caracas plaza and surrounding areas that have become the centre of anti-government protests.
National Guardsmen patrolled Plaza Altamira while dozens of workers swept up debris that protesters had used to block streets in the eastern Caracas neighbourhood.
The graceful sloping plaza in the capital's Chacao borough has become the focal point of student-led protests that have devolved each afternoon into violent clashes with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and Molotov cocktails. Only a small segment of the demonstrators stick around for the skirmishes.
"We're deployed since 3 a.m. in the entire municipality," Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said in an interview with state television. "We're re-establishing the right of thousands of citizens of Chacao who have been forced to stay inside their homes by violent actions."
General Manuel Quevedo, the National Guard's regional head in the capital, blamed a small group for trying to impose itself on the majority of people who want to live in peace in the area.
"With this situation we assure that every day the plaza is going to stay this way — calm, in peace," Quevedo said in a television interview from the plaza.
President Nicolas Maduro warned protesters in a speech Saturday that they had only hours to clear Plaza Altamira or security forces would enter. Maduro referred to the demonstrators as "los Chuckys," a reference to a diabolical doll in a US horror film series. There were clashes on the plaza Saturday and Sunday night as usual, but early Monday morning security forces entered the plaza with the apparent intention of staying.