(File image) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Caracas -

Venezuela's leading opposition candidate - whose grandmother is a Holocaust survivor - on Tuesday slammed President Hugo Chavez's accusations that he is tied to Nazi groups.

It was the latest in a series of intensely personal exchanges in the brutally negative campaign, in which the youthful Henrique Capriles hopes to deny Latin America's most prominent leftist a third six-year term.

“I heard a statement from the candidate, Chavez, trying to link me to Nazi groups,” Capriles said at a press conference.

“So I would like to ask (Chavez) not to respect me but my great-grandparents, buried somewhere in the world after being killed by the Nazis.”

“My grandmother was a Holocaust survivor,” said the former governor of the country's northern state of Miranda.

Capriles, a Catholic, comes from a family of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors who emigrated to Venezuela.

On a tour of a petrochemical plant Monday, Chavez said his administration has evidence that Capriles belonged to a “fascist” organisation of wealthy families implicated in “neo-Nazism.”

Capriles hopes to defeat Chavez in the October 7 presidential election.

Capriles, 39, said Venezuela deserves a “debate of the highest respect” in the race for the presidency.

“A political campaign does not need to lower itself into a swamp. (Chavez) has no idea what Nazism or fascism are,” Capriles said.

Throughout his campaign, Chavez has referred to Capriles as “bobo” (stupid) and “majunche” (not much). - Sapa-AFP