May 12, 2023
Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism, and the Battle to Control Haiti
Haiti’s state is near-collapse: armed groups have overrun the country, many government officials have fled after the 2021 assassination of President Moise and not a single elected leader holds office, refugees desperately set out on boats to reach the US and Latin America, and the economy reels from the after-effects of disasters, both man-made and natural, that destroyed much of Haiti’s infrastructure and institutions. How did a nation founded on liberation—a people that successfully revolted against their colonizers and enslavers—come to such a precipice?
In Aid State, Jake Johnston, a researcher and writer at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, reveals how long-standing US and European capitalist goals ensnared and re-enslaved Haiti under the guise of helping it. To the global West, Haiti has always been a place where labor is cheap, politicians are compliant, and profits are to be made. Over the course of nearly 100 years, the US has sought to control Haiti and its people with occupying police, military, and euphemistically-called peacekeeping forces, as well as hand-picked leaders meant to quell uprisings and protect corporate interests. Earthquakes and hurricanes only further devastated a state already decimated by the aid industrial complex.
Based on years of on-the-ground reporting in Haiti and interviews with politicians in the US and Haiti, independent aid contractors, UN officials, and Haitians who struggle for their lives, homes, and families, Aid State is a conscience-searing book of witness.
Reviews of Aid State
“Magisterial….Johnston’s dogged and comprehensive research vividly underscores the role international actors have played in hurling Haiti toward its current morass of political intrigue, structural violence, and institutional collapse.” – Dr. Robert Maguire, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University and former Representative for Haiti and the Caribbean of the Inter-American Foundation
“In Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism, and the Battle to Control Haiti, Jake Johnston weaves together the voices of politicians, aid contractors, United Nations officials, and, most importantly, Haitians fighting for their country and for their lives. Through reporting, testimonials, and firsthand accounts, Johnston exposes the intricate webs of power surrounding Haiti from its revolutionary beginnings to today. With precision, empathy, and an engaging narrative style, Johnston shines a light on the relentless battle for and against Haiti, challenging readers to confront the injustices inflicted upon a nation that continues to resist against all odds.” – Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying
“Jake Johnston’s Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism, and the Battle to Control Haiti should be required reading for all world leaders before they even think about meddling in Haitian politics. Challenging popular notions of what it means to best support Haiti, and with decades-long experience reporting on Haitian affairs to support his succinct and always shrewd analyses, Johnston shines an uncomfortable light on the international community’s contributions to Haiti’s recent tragedies. In so doing, he dismantles the idea that aid after disaster has anything to do with humanitarianism, while never losing sight of Haiti’s potential for self-recovery.” – Marlene L. Daut, Professor of French and African American Studies at Yale University, and author of Awakening the Ashes: An Intellectual History of the Haitian Revolution
“Jake Johnston’s Aid State is a harrowing journey into the heart of modern neocolonial darkness, revealing the thick network of international organizations, including the United Nations, that have occupied Haiti for decades. In the name of humanitarian aid and development, the occupiers have brought sexual abuse, disease, and death. Johnston writes movingly about a country and its people that survives under permanent occupation. An indispensable book.” – Greg Grandin is a professor of history at Yale University and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fordlandia
“In Aid State, Johnston combines his prodigious research with first person accounts from interviews with a remarkably broad range of Haitian, US and other foreign actors. The result is a troubling portrait of US policy across Democratic and Republican administrations. . . Johnston’s controversial thesis has implications far beyond one small country, suggesting the possibility that a new approach of respect for self-determination and encouragement of self-sufficiency in poor countries around the world could pave a much surer path to the spread of durable democracies we claim to seek.” – former U.S. Congressman Andy Levin
“Powerful…This cri de coeur from an expert with firsthand knowledge of what ails Haiti is a must-read.” – Publishers Weekly starred review