Propane: Fueling Political Dissent in Yemen

A girl sits atop a cart full of LPG tanks through the capital of Yemen. (image: Associated Press)

Two months of unrest have hit the Mideast nation of Yemen with a double whammy of high prices for food and a shortage of propane to cook it with — prompting protestors to block roads with empty tanks of the cooking gas, among other demonstrations throughout the country.

It’s a familiar storyline from the region, where a spirit of revolt has coalesced against high unemployment, corruption, and human rights abuses this year. And Yemenis, who face a 49-percent unemployment rate and a weakening currency, have taken to the streets in protest.

“There is no chance for work,” a construction worker and father of eight told the Associated Press this week.

In recent weeks, the worried populace has started hoarding food, leading to shortages and higher prices.

Propane has also gotten scarce, too. “Angry youth” protested outside a gas distribution center in the Yemeni capital for three days last week, leaving only after a truck full of tanks arrived. Then one customer who picked up a new cylinder complained the price had doubled. He suspected the price hike had underhanded political motives.

“The government gets the extra money to pay to its supporters who take part in the pro-government demonstrations, or to buy allegiance of some tribal chiefs,” Ahmed al-Himi said.

The government said that the protestors were responsible for the gas shortage. In addition, an attack on a power plant in the province that processes the country’s LPG disrupted the gas flow, according to the AP.

Libyan rebels have also been hit by cooking gas shortages. And the country of Qatar recently sent a shipment of propane to the rebel-held region in support.

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