ADEN -- The Houthis have channelled the revenues of al-Hodeidah port into their own coffers, boosting their military power instead of paying the salaries of state employees, Yemeni officials said.
According to Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak, the Houthis have collected 105 billion YER ($420 million) in customs duties and taxes on oil derivatives passing through al-Hodeidah port since the start of the current truce.
He said 26 ships carrying a total of more than 720,000 tonnes of oil derivatives have passed through the port since April 2, when the truce went into effect.
The revenue generated in duties and taxes was sufficient to cover a large portion of the unpaid salaries of state employees and retirees in Houthi-controlled areas, he said, but instead, the Iran-backed group kept the money.
State employees have not been paid since 2016.
The truce was extended for a second time, until October, following a commitment from the two sides to engage in negotiations and reach an expanded ceasefire agreement as soon as possible, bin Mubarak said.
A permanent truce proposal calls for an agreement on opening roads in Taez and other provinces, improving access to Sanaa International Airport and providing a regular flow of fuel to al-Hodeidah port, he said.
Demonstrators have demanded an end to the Houthis' blockade of Taez, a city of 600,000 that has been largely cut off from the world since 2015, when the group closed the main routes to the city.
Since then, thousands of residents of the area have died in fighting or as a result of illness and malnutrition.
Violating terms of truce
Under the terms of the truce and the Stockholm Agreement of December 2018, the revenue from al-Hodeidah port is meant to serve the Yemeni people, Deputy Minister of Justice Faisal al-Majeedi told Al-Mashareq.
"Unfortunately, the Houthis are exploiting international aid, as well as the oil derivative revenues and what they earn from the sale of oil derivatives to boost their military power," al-Majeedi said.
The Houthis have co-opted high schools to use as indoctrination and training camps, he said, and have spent public funds on military training to serve the agenda of the Iranian regime, he said.
He called on the international community and the United Nations (UN) and US envoys to Yemen to put pressure on the Houthis to implement the terms of previous agreements.
The revenues collected by the Houthis may rise to 110 billion YER ($440 million) by the end of the second truce period, which is much larger than the amount owed to government employees, economist Faris al-Najjar told Al-Mashareq.
State employee salaries accounted for 89 billion YER ($355 million) a month before the war broke out after the Houthis' September 2014 coup, he said.
Al-Najjar said the Yemeni government allowed the entry of oil derivatives as a goodwill gesture, in order to pay the salaries of employees and retirees living in areas under the group's control.
But the Houthis refuse to implement the terms of the truce, violating the agreement in al-Bayda and Taez provinces, he said.
"The Houthis continue their well-known policy of boosting their political, military and economic clout by benefitting from state revenues and imposing taxes on citizens," al-Najjar said.
He called on the Houthis to fulfill the commitments they have made to the UN-sponsored truce and to pay the salaries of state employees.