Brazil’s first openly gay lawmaker quits over death threats


Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 7

Brazilian Federal Deputy Jean Wyllys, Brazil’s first openly gay congressman, on Thursday said that he would not serve the new term for which he was re-elected due to death threats and now plans to live abroad.

However, the Brazilian Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) said that his seat in Brasilia would go to a substitute lawmaker who is also gay: Rio de Janeiro City Councilor David Miranda, the husband of Pulitzer Prize-winning US journalist Glenn Greenwald.

In a letter to the party explaining his decision to leave Brazil, Wyllys said that death threats made his life unbearable and he hardly left his Rio home.

His siblings and his mother had also been threatened, he said in the letter, which was released by the PSOL.

Wyllys told a newspaper that the climate of violence in Brazil, which had one of the world’s worst murder rates last year, had worsened since the October election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has disparaged gays and other minorities.

Wyllys said he was tired of living with bodyguards since the execution-style murder last year of popular Rio de Janeiro City Councilor Marielle Franco, a fellow PSOL member.

“It was not Bolsonaro’s election itself. It was the level of violence that has increased since he was elected,” Wyllys told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

A legislative aide in Brasilia confirmed that Wyllys was traveling in Europe and would not return to Brazil.

The Brazilian presidential press office declined to comment.

Wyllys told Folha that he was the target of constant death threats and defamatory campaigns on social media, and got pushed in the street even with bodyguards.

“I don’t want to sacrifice myself,” he told Folha. “I want to take care of myself and stay alive.”

He said the last straw were revelations that Bolsonaro’s son Flavio Bolsonaro had employed on his Rio state assembly staff relatives of a fugitive former police officer suspected of involvement in Franco’s assassination in March.

During his two terms in the Brazilian Congress, Wyllys, 44, was a staunch advocate for gay rights, and fought religious discrimination and violence against women.