‘I Have To Stay Alive’: Gay Brazilian Lawmaker Resigns, Flees Country Following Death Threats

An openly gay federal lawmaker in Brazil said on Thursday that he is resigning and said he has left the country after receiving death threats.

Congressman Jean Wyllys, the first openly gay member in the Brazilian National Congress, said in an interview published with the Portuguese-language Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that he is currently outside of the country and will not be returning.

Wyllys’s fierce advocacy for gay rights made him a major target for conservative groups.

Bloomberg reports that the lawmaker had been living under police protection since the assassination of Rio de Janeiro councilor Marielle Franco last March.

Franco, a black bisexual politician, was a friend of Wyllys and a fellow member of the socialist party.

“Preserving a threatened life is also a strategy to fight for better days,” Wyllys wrote in a tweet, according to translations from AP and Bloomberg. “We did a lot for the common good. And we will do much more when the new time comes, it doesn’t matter if we do it by different means!”

Wyllys told the newspaper that “this environment isn’t safe for me” after Franco’s assassination and violence that followed the election of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, in October.

“For the future of this cause,” Mr. Wyllys said, “I have to stay alive. I don’t want to be a martyr.”

Wyllys called Mr. Bolsonaro, a former colleague of his in the lower house of Congress, “a president who always vilified me, who always openly insulted me, who was always homophobic with me.”

The New York Times reports:

In 2016, Mr. Wyllys responded by spitting at Mr. Bolsonaro during the hearing to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. Mr. Bolsonaro, before reinventing himself as a fighter of political corruption and rampant violence, was best known for delivering verbal attacks on women, black people and gay people from the congressional floor.

Shortly after Mr. Wyllys’ interview was published, Mr. Bolsonaro, who was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, tweeted “Great day!” and a thumbs-up emoticon. Supporters weighed in, many with homophobic comments.

Wyllys, who was set to begin his third congressional term in February, told Folha de S. Paulo that he didn’t know how he would live for another four years in an armored car and with police protection, according to AP.

“How is it that I’m going to live four years of my life inside an armored car and with bodyguards?” he said. “Four years of my life not being able to go to the places I usually go to?”