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Tensions High as Cairo Braces for Massive Demonstrations

A wounded demonstrator carries a poster in Cairo, Egypt, Monday Jan. 31, 2011
A wounded demonstrator carries a poster in Cairo, Egypt, Monday Jan. 31, 2011

Anti-government demonstrators in Egypt are calling for a million-person march in Cairo on Tuesday to force President Hosni Mubarak from office. VOA's Luis Ramirez arrived in the Egyptian capital a short while ago and says tension there are high.

It doesn't take long after landing in Cairo to see that basically no one is in charge here. It is a scene of chaos. From the airport into downtown, in what would be a 20 minute trip with the streets being empty of cars as they are because of the curfew, the trip took about two hours. There are scores of checkpoints along the way - some manned by police, others by soldiers on tanks, others by paramilitary police - most of them vigilantes carrying sticks and machetes. I saw a man with a kitchen knife taped to a stick and a boy about 10-years-old with a knife.

They largely are private citizens, protecting their property against looters and against the reported hundreds of prison escapees who are roaming the streets of the Egyptian capital. Even late at night, it is a very tense scene. At one of the checkpoints, a member of the paramilitary police, seeing our vehicle approach and being under curfew, cocked his gun and pointed it straight at us.

Tensions remain very high, with opposition groups calling for a million people to demonstrate on Tuesday.

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