Venezuela's interim President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters as he leaves a polling station after voting in the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, April 14, 2013. (Photo: AP)
CARACAS, Venezuela (TheBlaze/AP) -- Venezuelan electoral officials say voters have narrowly elected Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor as president in a razor-close special election Sunday.
Winner Nicolas Maduro campaigned on a promise to carry on Chavez's self-styled socialist revolution, and defeated a two-time challenger who claimed the late president's regime has put Venezuela on the road to ruin.
Officials say Maduro defeated Henrique Capriles by only about 300,000 votes. The margin was 50.8 percent to 49.1 percent.
Hours earlier, Maduro's campaign had strongly hinted at victory. Campaign chief Jorge Rodriguez smiled broadly during a news conference and summoned supporters to the presidential palace, where Chavez's supporters gathered to celebrate the late president's past victories. And he warned that Maduro's camp would not allow the will of the people to be subverted.
Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles waves after voting in Caracas, on April 14, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
This combo shows Venezuelan acting president and presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro gesturing and voting in Caracas, on April 14, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Capriles and his campaign aides immediately lashed out at Rodriguez's comments. Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, a Capriles campaign coordinator, suggested the government was trying to steal the election.
"They know perfectly well what happened and so do we," he said at a hastily called news conference. "They are misleading their people and are trying to mislead the people of this country."
A war of words soon erupted on Twitter. Capriles suggested fraud was in the works , tweeting: "We alert the country and the world of the intent to change the will of the people!" In an earlier tweet, Capriles urged his supporters not to be "desperate and defeated."
Maduro's campaign was mostly a near-religious homage to the man he called "the redeemer of the Americas," who succumbed to cancer March 5. He blamed Venezuela's myriad woes on vague plots by alleged saboteurs that the government never identified.
Capriles' main campaign weapon was to simply emphasize "the incompetence of the state," as he put it to reporters Saturday night.
In the end, it seems as though loyalty to the legacy of Chavez won out.
The Agence France-Presse has more on the former president's lasting impact (and it includes a startling number of tattoos):
This is a breaking news story. Updates will be added.