CARACAS, Venezuela – Demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles and gunfire rang out Thursday as Venezuela's leading opposition presidential candidate toured a slum stronghold of President Hugo Chavez. At least five people were injured.
Manuel Rosales' motorcade came under a barrage of stones and bottles when it arrived in the Catia slum of western Caracas, prompting the candidate to leave his vehicle and continue on foot.
Residents wearing the red T-shirts of Chavez's party chanted: "Get Out! Get Out!"
Gunshots were fired from a hillside while Rosales greeted residents amid a crowd of supporters and bodyguards.
Rosales, the popular governor of Zulia state, finally cut short his visit after riot police set off tear gas.
Justice Minister Jesse Chacon said five people, including two police officers, were hurt but did not elaborate on their injuries.
Rosales, who has emerged as the opposition's leading choice to face Chavez in Dec. 3 elections, called the episode an "ambush."
"If anything happens to me and they kill me in this ambush ordered by Chavez, I hold Chavez responsible and the people will know what to do," Rosales said.
Chacon later rejected allegations of Chavez's involvement, and accused Rosales and his supporters of possibly setting up the disturbances in order to discredit the government.
Chavez, who leads in the polls, has called opposition candidates "lackeys" of the U.S. government. Rosales has responded by saying he is independent of both the U.S. and Cuba — Chavez's close ally.