Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday a victory for his opposing candidate in the October presidential election would put their country on a path to war and violence.
He was referring to Henrique Capriles Radonski, 39, who easily won Sunday's primary election to be the sole candidate opposing Chavez.
Chavez's statements this week show Capriles faces a tough battle against the firebrand president before the October 7 election.
Chavez, 57, a leftist ally of Cuba and harsh critic of the United States, remains popular among the working class, backed by resources including the state media as well as people receiving food and fuel subsidies. He is seeking to be re-elected to a third term as Venezuela's president.
During a speech Friday to his supporters in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Chavez said, "We are ensuring continuity of peace, domestic tranquility, national development of economics, social life, of Venezuelan democracy."
Capriles, a moderate member of the Justice First party who describes his politics as center-left, has argued that Venezuela can replicate Brazil's model of economic development, which mixes free market economic reforms and enhanced social programs.
Chavez has described Capriles as elitist and "bourgeois."
"If anything was guaranteed about the Venezuelan bourgeoisie running the government, it would be a guarantee of war, of violence, of national uproar; the guarantee of the end of the country, and we are not going to allow that," Chavez said.
Capriles has avoided a confrontation with Chavez, instead saying that he would try "to solve the problems of Venezuela" rather than to fight.
He received 1.9 million votes in the primaries among the three million people who voted. They represented 17 percent of registered voters in Venezuela.
On Thursday, Chavez broadcast a speech on state radio and television during which he referred to Capriles by saying, "My mission... (will be) to take off the mask, you low-life, because no matter how much you disguise it, low-life, you have a pig's tail, a pig's ears, and you snort like a pig."