Within 48 hours of the impressive victory in Venezuela’s first-ever presidential primary, the winner Henrique Capriles Radonski, who favors an end to polarization and national reconciliation, faced a barrage of vituperative, mendacious, and scandalous attacks by supporters of the Chavez regime.

A chorus of baying hounds swiftly sought to discredit the young presidential aspirant from the start. Leading the pack was Diosdado Cabello, the rattled former military comrade and possible heir-apparent to Chavez, who denounced Capriles as a stooge of the Right. “Now we know who is the candidate of imperialism, of capitalism and the right wing. The anti-patriotic candidate has a face. He won’t have an easy election campaign.”

Many attacks were patently offensive. Chavez supporters are zeroing in on Capriles’s Jewish ancestry in an effort to animate latent anti-Semitism in Venezuela. A pro-government publication did not mince words: “This is our enemy, the Zionism that Capriles today represents. Zionism, along with capitalism, are responsible for 90% of world poverty and imperialist wars.”

Capriles’s family came to Venezuelato escape the Holocaust during World War II: “My grandmother was in the Warsaw Ghetto. My great-grandparents were killed in a concentration camp. My grandmother’s mother and father were killed by the Nazis in Treblinka.” Capriles is a practicing Catholic.

A pro-Chavez media figure claimed without proof that Capriles was caught engaging in a homosexual act.

For others, it is good old-fashioned class warfare: Capriles has a “bourgeois” upbringing, while Chavez was raised by his grandmother in a rural shack.

The Chavez government initiated its first confrontation with the opposition over voting records. By pre-agreement, the opposition decided to destroy ballots and rosters within 48 hours to preserve the secrecy of the vote. Following a challenge in one close election, the Supreme Court ordered all voting material turned over to the government. The opposition has refused to comply, and the conflict continues to unfold.

The level of acrimony reflects the hysteria and heavy-handed nature of the Chavez regime. It demonstrates the need for intense scrutiny to document the crude assaults on democracy that will occur in Venezuela between now and October 7, when Chavez will face Capriles in the election.