More than 20,000 soldiers and police officers patrolled the capital Thursday to maintain order after three days of rioting over price increases. A newspaper said at least 200 people have been killed.

Sporadic gunfire died down at daybreak in the capital, and officials urged workers to return to their jobs.Mourners, some with black eyes and cuts from street violence, Thursday waited outside the central Caracas morgue for the bodies of loved ones to be released.

The government of this oil-rich country has blamed the rioting and looting - the country's worst unrest in 31 years of democratic rule - on "minuscule" groups of leftist extremists it did not name.

But the scope of the disturbances prompted it to impose martial law and an overnight curfew beginning Tuesday, a day after increases in gasoline prices and transit fares touched off the violence.

El Nacional newspaper said at least nine people were killed Wednesday by snipers shooting at troops in the shantytowns east and west of Caracas.

In Thursday's editions, the paper said the dead included an elderly woman hit by a stray bullet while in her apartment.

An estimated 15,000 troops and 7,000 police maintained order in the capital Thursday. Some patrolled in armored vehicles; others manned roadblocks.

Interior Minister Alejandro Izaguirre said Wednesday night that "small anarchistic groups" were bent on prolonging the unrest that has "shaken the country." President Carlos Andres Perez has been in office for just a month.

The opposition has blamed the riots on government austerity measures.

Real wages have since fallen by one-third, inflation is expected to hit 70 percent this year - double the 1988 figure - and the foreign debt is $33 billion, fourth largest in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

At least 200 people have died, 1,000 people have been injured and 2,000 arrested in violence, El Nacional said, citing official sources.

The paper listed the names of 159 people whose bodies it said were in Caracas morgues "congested with corpses."