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Tensions up ahead of Venezuela election

Venezuela's leading opposition candidate called Wednesday for President Hugo Chavez's government to play clean in Sunday's presidential election amid signs of a widening political divide in the country.

The race has highlighted how increasingly polarized Venezuela has become, largely along class lines, with the wealthier supporting Rosales, the poor backing Chavez and the middle class fractured.

Shoppers are packing supermarkets to stock up on supplies, fearful that Sunday's outcome could prompt street protests and violence.

"It has to be a clean game ... If that happens, all of us will be calm," Manuel Rosales, governor of oil-rich Zulia state, said to The Associated Press shortly before closing his campaign with a huge rally in Maracaibo, Venezuela's second-largest city.

Both Rosales and Chavez have warned their supporters to be alert for fraud and to be ready to defend the vote.

Chavez, speaking at his own rally in southeastern Trujillo state, warned that the U.S. government was backing Rosales and would try to undermine the election.

"If the imperialists and its lackeys try to destabilize Venezuela with riots, they will regret it for the rest of their lives. I warn them," he said.

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