CARACAS, Venezuela — Just two days after Henrique Capriles Radonski won Venezuela's first ever opposition primary with 64 percent of the vote, the country's pro-government forces have begun attacking his Jewish roots, his sexuality and the legitimacy of Sunday's election.
National Assembly President and staunch ally of President Hugo Chávez, Diosdado Cabello questioned the vote which saw a turnout of more than three million, far surpassing all analysts' expectations.
"We've got to determine whether those numbers actually exist," said Cabello, adding that Capriles is the "candidate of imperialism, capitalism and the Right."
The rivalry between Cabello and Capriles is personal. Capriles won the governorshp of Venezuela's Miranda state agaisnt Cabello in 2008. That Capriles could win against such a strong ally of the president shocked many.
The smear campaign against Capriles has quickly become more than just political. An article appeared on state radio station Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV) written by Adal Hernández, who clashed with Capriles at a press conference on Monday
Under the headline, "The Enemy is Zionism," Hernández attacked the 39-year-old's Jewish roots. The piece describes Capriles' alleged links to a Jewish business oligarchy as well as his "participation" in "US imperialism."
Capriles' office was ransacked in 2009. Swastikas were spray-painted on the walls.
A cartoon has appeared online that paints Capriles with a swastika on his arm. He appears pint-sized compared to Chávez, who mocks his alleged links to Washington. It is one of many similar images bouncing around social-media sites.
Capriles' great-grandparents were killed in Nazi concentration camps.
Reading out what he said was a police document live on television, state media personality Mario Silva alleged that Capriles was caught having sex with another man in a car over a decade ago, reports Reuters.
The coming months, ahead of October's presidential election, promise to be exciting. With such a high turnout on Sunday, Chávez appears to have a much stronger opposition to contend with than at any other point during his 13-year tenure. Capriles must now maintain unity among the traditionally disjointed group.