CARACAS, Venezuela — As the smear campaign began Tuesday against Henrique Capriles Radonski, the winner of Sunday's primary vote and therefore the man to take on President Hugo Chavez in October's election, government officials are beginning to question the election's legitimacy.
Read more: Meet Henrique Capriles, Chavez's first real challenger
The opposition's insistence on burning the ballot papers has fueled the government's allegations. However, the opposition claims that this is necessary to ensure secrecy of votes. They cite events of 2004, when the Tascon list, a record of those who petitioned against Chavez in a recall, was leaked and many on it said they lost their government jobs and were unable to find others.
Venezuela's Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that the opposition had 24 hours to hand over voting material. The Democratic Unity Panel (MUD), an opposition conglomerate, has described the ruling as “absurd, unconstitutional and disproportionate,” adding that the ballots have now been destroyed. Local television and newspapers have carried images of the burning papers.
Clashes in Barquisimeto and Maracay led to one death, as anti-government protesters fought with authorities attempting to seize ballots.
“The opposition lies by saying that burning of electoral rolls is to protect voters,” Chavez said Wednesday, before attacking Capriles directly.
"The bourgeoisie have their candidate," he said, adding that Capriles was the candidate of "capitalism" and the "Yankees."
"We are going to thrash that bourgeoisie.”
Capriles has a tough fight ahead. Just Tuesday, he faced criticism and mockery of his Jewish roots, sexuality and “fascist” leanings.
Read more: Pro-Chavez forces attack Henrique Capriles Radonski