There are two Latin American nations with more than 25 pending investor arbitrations.

One has never made any significant payment to settle an investor claim, and refuses to honor three awards it has lost.

The other has showered a dozen foreign investors with more than $7.25 billion in settlements during the past five years, including a prompt ­payment of the one recent award it lost in a case arising out of expropriation.

The first country is Argentina. The second? Venezuela.

"People can say whatever they want," said Venezuela’s arbitration counsel, George Kahale, chairman of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle in New York. "The record shows that Venezuela has a history of granting reasonable compensation for nationalizations."

Sure, Hugo Chávez had an itchy trigger finger. The Venezuelan Confederation of Industries says he seized 1,168 companies located in the country from 2002 through 2012. He had a weakness for the economy’s commanding heights (oil, steel and cement), but he wasn’t too proud to seize cattle ranches, or the occasional yacht to convert into a crowd-pleasing tour boat.

It’s also true that investor relations wasn’t Chávez’s forte. He called privatization a "neoliberal and ­imperialist plan." He called capitalism "the way of the devil and exploitation." In a less guarded moment, he even blamed capitalism for the absence of life on Mars: "[I]t would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet."

Chávez seemingly seceded from the liberal world order last summer, when he withdrew from the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

But the catch is that Venezuela’s 28 ­pending cases before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes — including a $30 billion claim by ConocoPhillips and an $18 billion claim by Exxon Mobil Corp. — are completely unaffected. Virtually any new claim under Venezuela’s investor treaties can be brought under the arbitration rules of the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law.

In his heart of hearts, Hugo Chávez was a ­student of expropriation law. (Indeed, one might say that he was its leading practitioner.)

He knew that a state is free to expropriate to its heart’s delight — whether under constitutional law, human rights law or international investment law — so long as it pays fair compensation.

Venezuela’s socialist avenger was guilty of deterring new investment, mismanaging the companies he seized, and undermining the rule of law in other ways. But let’s not forget that, at least sometimes, he paid something approximating reasonable compensation. When push came to shove, Chávez was a relatively ­reasonable man.

Michael D. Goldhaber is senior international correspondent for ALM and The American Lawyer. E-mail: