The opposition had been complaining of irregularities all day. And as polls began closing late Sunday, Capriles posted on Twitter that the administration was trying to change the will of the people.
As the results were announced, Capriles supporters shouted, Fraud!
I dont believe this, said Betty Weber, 60, with tears in her eyes. Everyone knew we were winning. Theyre just playing the same game as always.
Maduro, 50, takes the helm of a deeply divided nation plagued by violence, and struggling under record inflation, power outages and food shortages. Maduro has vowed to make crime and the economy his two top priorities, but offered few olive branches to the administrations traditional enemies.
Asked whether he would seek reconciliation with the opposition, Maduro said his administration is always open to dialogue but not pacts with the right wing.
He also said there could be no rapprochement with the United States until Washington respects Venezuela. In March, the government expelled two U.S. diplomats it accused of conspiring with members of the armed forces. On Sunday, Maduro said his government would offer additional details about U.S. meddling here.
We will never accept it, he said of U.S. interference. While I am president and the revolution is governing we will not allow any empire to humiliate us.
The loss was a serious blow to an opposition that has been defeated in three back-to-back races.
After Capriles lost to Chávez in October, ruling-party allies swept 20 out of 23 governors races in December.
Before the results were announced, Luís Vicente León, with the Datanalisis polling firm, conceded that Capriles second loss in six months might leave him forgotten, destroyed and pulverized politically, but he said many opposition supporters understand that the 40-year-old governor was facing an uphill battle.
This race was seen as an epic sacrifice to represent the opposition and fight for political space no matter how tough, he said.
Venezuela does not allow electoral observers, but it does invite accompaniers to follow the vote.
On Sunday, a delegation with the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations was having photos taken in front a sidewalk shrine to Chávez, where citizens had placed flowers, letters and cups of coffee.
The delegations president, Roberto Rosario, said his group had not seen any blatant campaign violations Sunday.
What were seeing is people voting calmly. Theres no sense of confrontation, he said.
Asked about pro-government propaganda that was in Sundays newspapers and on public television, Rosario said it was largely a consequence of the compressed 10-day campaign. The opposition also had thinly veiled ads in some papers, he said.
There are issues on both sides, he said. But when the issues are equal we cannot talk about one side having an advantage.
Diego Sueiras is the mission chief for Redlad, a network of observer organizations that was denied the right to accompany Sundays vote. Sueiras said the election was deeply flawed because of the uneven playing field leading up to the vote.
Were in a system where democracy doesnt seem to matter before or during the election, he said. All that seems to matter is that they can count the votes.