As foreign minister, Maduro helped to strengthen Venezuela's relations with Russia, which sells billions of dollars worth of military equipment to Venezuela, and with China, which is now one of the Venezuelan government's main financiers. Maduro is also said to be a close ally of Cuban leader Raul Castro. Cuba gets 100,000 barrels of oil from Venezuela every day, at highly discounted rates, and in exchange provides doctors and other specialists who work in healthcare programs in Venezuela.
Henrique Capriles arrives at a packed campaign rally in the city of Maracay (Fernando Llano/AP Photo)
Capriles, 40, is the governor of Miranda state. He ran unsuccessfully against Chávez in 2012, but he managed to give the opposition its best showing ever against the socialist leader, garnering 45 percent of the vote.
Capriles avoided confrontation with Chávez in the last election, as this strategy had not worked well for the opposition previously. But now he's gone on a full press attack against Maduro, accusing him of being an incompetent leader who is also a "puppet" of the Cuban government.
Capriles seeks to strengthen state and local governments, giving them more funding and autonomy. He would also do away with plans to implement socialist communes, arguing that these structures undermine governors who are elected by the people.
Capriles says he supports many of the social programs set in place by the Chávez administration, saying in a recent campaign speech that they have become part of the peoples' "rights." Opponents of Capriles, however, contend that Capriles is lying and would actually cut back on social spending as he implements "neoliberal" reforms.
In the international arena, Capriles has said he would cut oil aid to Cuba and would revise commercial and military agreements made with other countries on a case-by-case basis. He has criticized the Venezuelan government for making aggressive statements about the U.S. while it still sells the U.S. oil, and says that Maduro has a "hypocritical" foreign policy.