BRANCE Munoz Mosquera, Pablo Escobar's main enforcer, died as he had lived, in a midnight shoot-out with the police; he is a prized scalp for the Elite Force, Colombia's anti-drug squad.
Munoz was believed to be the evil genius behind a series of outrages committed by the Medellin cocaine cartel during its war with the Colombian government following the assassination of a leading presidential candidate in August 1989. He never turned himself in under a leniency deal offered by the government to put an end to the violence, and had been on the run since escaping by helicopter in 1988 from a Medellin prison where he was awaiting trial for murder.
Munoz was 33. He died, machine-gun in hand, when police stormed a house in Medellin after receiving an anonymous tip-off on the city's drug hot-line. The informant stands to collect a dollars 140,000 reward. The only drawback for the authorities is that Munoz's death is likely to delay, perhaps indefinitely, the surrender of his boss. Escobar strolled out of his gilded prison near Medellin in July, and has been trying to negotiate terms for giving himself up again ever since. He has a dollars 3.8m price on his head, and bounty-hunters from all over the world are rumoured to be on his tail.
Munoz was thought to be in charge of Escobar's personal security; he was known as the Medellin cartel's 'military commander'. The authorities are fully expecting another outburst of mayhem in retribution for his killing, and have put troops all over the country on maximum alert.
During the open warfare of 1989-91 Munoz showed his military mettle by organising the bombing of an Avianca airliner with 107 people on board in November 1989. There were no survivors. He was in charge of the notorious bands of young hired killers, known as sicarios, recruited from the slums of Medellin, who shot down hundreds of policemen from the backs of speeding motorbikes. And he was held responsible for placing a car bomb outside the headquarters of the security police, DAS, in the Colombian capital, killing 64 people but missing its main target, the DAS commander General Miguel Maza Marquez.
The violent tactics worked, however: the Colombian government agreed not to extradite cartel members to the United States, and offered token sentences to those who turned themselves in.
Munoz was affectionately known as 'Tyson', apparently because of his physical resemblance to the American boxer.