The Venezuelan army and police had taken back entire neighbourhoods of a city at the centre of anti-government demonstrations, with soldiers clearing the streets of barricades after clashes with protesters.
Thousands of troops cleared the structures with bulldozers and armed vehicles on Sunday, meeting little resistance in a city that had been blockaded for over a month and a half.
In footage recorded by Al Jazeera, the operation began with police firing stun grenades and tear gas at protesters, who replied with bricks and, according to Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Alessandro Rampietti, home-made mortar bombs.
However, General Miguel Vivas Landino, of the National Guard, said that the resistance was soon overwhelmed.
“We recovered this sector that had been under threat, often by armed thugs who had virtually kidnapped people denying them to enjoy their city,” he said. ”We did it under the mandate of President Nicolas Maduro. We came to bring back peace and we did it in a peaceful way. This is a democratic state.”
City under siege
San Cristobal has been beset with anti-Maduro demonstrations since February, when students started protesting against crime, food shortages, and rising inflation. Large barricades were built around the city.
Rampietti said: “Since the start most of the population population has been assisting the young on the streets, with the middle class helping with food, money, and even preparing petrol bombs.”
“Today appears to have been a setback for the protesters. However the demonstrators say that they will rebuild what has been destroyed. But with the military sending in more soldiers many here are starting to wonder for how long they’ll be able to resist.”