- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

MEXICO CITY (Agence France-Presse) — U.S. officials and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan will use armored vehicles made in Mexico, said the director of the company, Abate.

The U.S. government awarded a contract to STS International, a U.S. company, to provide armored cars for contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan and other U.S. diplomatic missions and businesses in the Middle East.

Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton’s drug czar, reportedly recommended Abate to STS, after seeing the company’s work at a security industry show.

Abate plans each month to armor plate 30 vehicles imported from the United States, which will be sent on to Iraq and Afghanistan for use by officials or contractors, company spokesman Jose Ramon Abraham said.

The company, which has a seven-level armor system, typically armor plates vehicles for the Mexican market to level three, which will protect occupants against small-arms fire from a 9 mm Uzi or a .357 Magnum, for about $36,000 — on top of the price of the vehicle.

Abate will armor plate vehicles for use in Iraq and Afghanistan to level six.

“That level will shield against grenades launched at the speed of a bullet, which is the greatest risk they have there, land mines and assault rifles like the AK-47 Kalashnikov,” Mr. Abraham said.

Level-six shielding uses stainless steel, Aramid Fiber and a special resin-based ceramic at a cost of $120,000.

The growth of drug trafficking, concentration of wealth and unemployment have spawned a crime wave in Mexico as well as a need for armored vehicles.

Nearly 50 Mexican companies make vehicles bullet-proof, 80 percent of which are light trucks.

“For now, they are armoring used cars already on the market, but demand is greater than the supply,” Mr. Abraham said.

He said his company will build five cars for Iraq, and based on those prototypes, plans to build 30 per month for U.S. use.

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