Brazil’s first and only gay congressperson has announced that he is stepping down and has left the country in response to death threats against him.
Jean Wyllys made the announcement in an interview published yesterday in Brazilian newpaper Folha de S.Paulo that has been translated by Deutsche Welle.
The 44-year-old was re-elected to Congress in October last year and was to begin his third term as a representative for Rio de Janeiro next month. But he told the Sao Paulo-based newspaper that he will not return to Parliament nor to Brazil, claiming his career and reputation had been “destroyed by lies” and fake news.
Wyllys said that threats on his life has increased since the murder last March of his friend, lesbian Rio de Janeiro councilperson Marielle Franco.
“This was not an easy decision, and it involved a lot of pain, because I am also giving up being close to my family, my dear friends, and the people who love me and want me near them,” he said.
“Why would I want to live four years of my life in an armoured car with bodyguards? Four years of my life when I can’t just go where I want to go?”
Although he did not explicitly blame far-right President Jair Bolsonaro – who took office earlier this month – Wyllys said that violence and hate speech had worsened since he was elected.
The Guardian says Wyllys’ departure is “likely to add to fears among Brazil’s LGBT community” that homophobia is “set to rise even further” under Bolsonaro. The army office-turned-politician has a history of homophobic comments, including saying that he would “rather his son die in a car accident than be gay”.
Wyllys’ left-wing Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) said that his vacant seat in Congress would be filled by David Miranda, “a member of the Rio de Janeiro city council who is also gay and is married to Pulitzer prize-winning US journalist Glenn Greenwald”, reports the BBC.