Troops, vigilantes patrol after Venezuela unrest, 3 dead

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Venezuela's cash shortage causes destruction
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Venezuela's cash shortage causes destruction
Workers repair damages in a store after it was looted, in La Fria, Venezuela, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
An employee of a looted local supermarket inspects the damages the business suffered in La Fria, Tachira state, Venezuela on December 19, 2016. A jet load of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela on December 18 after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government. / AFP / GEORGE CASTELLANOS (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
People clash with Venezuelan National Guards as they try to cross the border to Colombia over the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge in Urena, Venezuela December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez 
A police officer takes pictures of the damages in front of a supermarket after it was looted, in La Fria, Venezuela, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
People carry goods taken from a food wholesaler after it was broken into, in La Fria, Venezuela December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
A worker looks for valuables among the damaged goods in a store after it was looted, in La Fria, Venezuela, December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
People carry goods taken from a food wholesaler after it was broken into, in La Fria, Venezuela December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
People carry goods taken from a food wholesaler after it was broken into, in La Fria, Venezuela December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
People carry goods taken from a food wholesaler after it was broken into, in La Fria, Venezuela December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
People queue to deposit their 100 bolivar notes, near Venezuela's Central Bank in Caracas, Venezuela December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Marco Bello
People carry goods taken from a supermarket after it was broken into, in La Fria, Venezuela December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
People clash with Venezuelan National Guards as they try to cross the border to Colombia over the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge in Urena, Venezuela December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
An employee of a looted local supermarket inspects the damages the business suffered in La Fria, Tachira state, Venezuela on December 19, 2016. A jet load of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela on December 18 after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government. / AFP / GEORGE CASTELLANOS (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Men make repairs at a looted store in La Fria, Tachira state, Venezuela on December 19, 2016. A jet load of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela on December 18 after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government. / AFP / GEORGE CASTELLANOS (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
View of a market after being burnt during looting in Ciudad Bolivar, Bolivar state, Venezuela, on December 19, 2016. A jet load of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela on December 18 after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government. / AFP / MANAURE QUINTERO (Photo credit should read MANAURE QUINTERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Men make repairs at a looted store in La Fria, Tachira state, Venezuela on December 19, 2016. A jet load of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela on December 18 after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government. / AFP / GEORGE CASTELLANOS (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee of a looted local supermarket inspects the damages the business suffered in La Fria, Tachira state, Venezuela on December 19, 2016. A jet load of new currency finally arrived in Venezuela on December 18 after its delayed arrival sparked protests and looting that jolted President Nicolas Maduro's unpopular government. / AFP / GEORGE CASTELLANOS (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
People confront Bolivarian National Guard member whilst attempting to cross the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge, linking Urena, in Venezuela and Cucuta, in Colombia, despite the border closing order issued by the Venezuelan government, on December 18, 2016. President Nicolas Maduro delayed until January 2 taking Venezuela's highest denomination bill out of circulation but the borders with Colombia and Brazil will remain closed to hit what he claims are 'mafias' hoarding Venezuelan cash abroad in a US-backed plot to destabilize the country. In Tachira, the crackdown caused added misery for people who rely on cross-border trade. / AFP / George Castellanos (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Bolivarian national Guard members stand guard at the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge, linking Urena, in Venezuela and Cucuta, in Colombia, whilst people attempt to cross despite the border closing order issued by the Venezuelan government, on December 18, 2016. President Nicolas Maduro delayed until January 2 taking Venezuela's highest denomination bill out of circulation but the borders with Colombia and Brazil will remain closed to hit what he claims are 'mafias' hoarding Venezuelan cash abroad in a US-backed plot to destabilize the country. In Tachira, the crackdown caused added misery for people who rely on cross-border trade. / AFP / George Castellanos (Photo credit should read GEORGE CASTELLANOS/AFP/Getty Images)
LA FRIA, VENEZUELA - DECEMBER 17 : People carry cans of food and bottles of drinks as they loot a food warehouse during a protest in La Fria, Tachira, Venezuela, on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (Photo by Carlos Becerra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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BOLIVAR/TACHIRA, Venezuela, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Soldiers patrolled streets, neighbors mounted barricades and businessmen raked through damaged shops on Monday in parts of Venezuela worst hit from violence sparked by a cash shortage.

At least three people died and 405 people were arrested, officials said, in protests and looting over the weekend that followed the socialist government's elimination of the largest currency bill.

The opposition put the death toll at five, though authorities only confirmed a man, a woman and a 14-year-old boy were shot dead in the worst-hit state of Bolivar in the south.

Some rioters targeted Chinese-owned shops, witnesses said, prompting concern in Beijing.

Raimon Moya, 29, stood in the safety of a police station 100 meters (yards) while looters attacked her butcher's shop in state capital Ciudad Bolivar.

"It's like watching them kill a child," she said. "You work all your life for something, and they destroy it in minutes," she added. Some 350 outlets were looted in the city.

In response to the mayhem, Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, has postponed the elimination of the 100-bolivar notes until Jan. 2 in order to allow time for new larger bills to enter circulation.

The removal of the 100-bolivar bills, before replacement notes were in place, left many people unable to pay for basic goods and transactions in the busy run-up to Christmas.

That heaped hardship onto Venezuelans already suffering scarcities of food and the world's highest inflation.

"I'M RUINED"

In Ciudad Bolivar, residents formed barricades in the streets to protect themselves and shops from further violence.

Some formed shifts to watch from rooftops all night.

In the Andean highland town of La Fria, in Tachira state, rubble and packages lay strewn on the ground on Monday as National Guard soldiers stood watch.

Eight Chinese-owned food stores were among 16 outlets ransacked, the local governor said.

Some local government offices also were attacked, one by arsonists, and 33 people arrested in La Fria at the weekend.

"I'm ruined, I don't have words to describe what happened," said Nelson Roa, owner of a destroyed food shop there.

Roa said he ran for help when looters started throwing stones at his store, and brought back two soldiers in his car whom he found at a traffic light. "They couldn't do anything."

Maduro said the currency measure was needed to combat criminals on the border with Colombia hoarding bolivars to fuel contraband and sabotage his leftist administration.

He also accused political opponents of whipping up violence, at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama, to seek a coup against him.

Washington denies constant accusations of meddling, although government supporters recall U.S. approval of a short-lived coup against Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in 2002 during the George W. Bush administration.

Opposition leaders say Maduro has only himself to blame for incompetent economic policies that have stirred Venezuelans' anger. Opponents are now calling for Maduro to resign after having had their push for a referendum to remove him thwarted by election and judicial bodies who seldom go against the government.

The 54-year-old former bus driver and foreign minister, who replaced Chavez in 2013, has seen his popularity plunge during a three-year recession. His term runs to January 2019. (Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Deisy Buitrago and Eyanir Chinea in Caracas; Editing by Bill Trott and Alistair Bell)

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