Gay congressman Jean Wyllys leaves job and Brazil after death threats

Jean Wyllys, Rio de Janeiro federal deputy for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) speaks during a rally of Brazilian leftist parties at Circo Voador in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 02, 2018

Openly gay Brazilian congressman Jean Wyllys has left his role and home country after receiving an increasing number of death threats.

The left-wing politician, who was re-elected in October to serve a third term, told Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that threats on his life had risen since the murder of his friend and ally, lesbian Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco, in March 2018.

Wyllys, 44, said that when the former President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, heard about the death threats, he told Wyllys: “Be careful, man. Martyrs are not heroes.”

“For the future of this cause, I need to be alive. I do not want to be a martyr. I want to live.”

— Jean Wyllys

“It’s exactly that,” Wyllys said. “I don’t want to sacrifice myself.”

He added: “For the future of this cause, I need to be alive. I do not want to be a martyr. I want to live.”

Writing on Twitter after the interview was published, he told his followers: “Preserving a threatened life is also a strategy to fight for better days.

“We have done much for the common good. And we will do much more when the new time comes, no matter what we do by other means! Thank you to all of you with all my heart.”

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Jean Wyllys did not want to leave Brazil

Since Franco’s death, which prompted protests from tens of thousands of people across the country, Wyllys has used a police escort.

“How will I live four years of my life in an armoured car and under escort?” he asked Folha de S. Paulo. “Four years of my life, unable to attend the places I go to?”

“I am also giving up being close to my family, my dear friends and people who love me.”

— Jean Wyllys

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Wyllys said leaving his home country 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 people who love me and wanted me around.”

The politician, who rose to fame in Brazil after winning the fifth season of Big Brother Brazil in 2005, has held a seat in parliament since 2011. He said he would now study for his doctorate, but would not reveal where.

Jean Wyllys has fought with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro

He has repeatedly clashed with Brazil’s new right-wing president, self-professed “proud homophobe” Jair Bolsonaro, even spitting on him in Parliament during the 2016 impeachment process of President Dilma Rousseff.

Wyllys said Bolsonaro “has always slandered me, has always insulted me openly, has always used homophobia against me.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech during the appointment ceremony of the new heads of public banks, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil on January 7, 2019

Jean Wyllys said that President Jair Bolsonaro has “always used homophobia against me” (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty)

“This environment is not safe for me.”

However, Wyllys said that his self-imposed exile was not caused by Bolsonaro taking office earlier this month, but by “the level of violence that increased after his election… Violence against LGBTs in Brazil has grown frighteningly.”

Jean Wyllys has dealt with abuse and lies

Wyllys highlighted the anti-gay abuse that he has faced in Brazil, saying: “I saw my reputation destroyed by lies and I [was] powerless, unable to do anything. People have no idea what it’s like to be the target.”

He added: “I can not be in my country… without being insulted by people who think I’m a paedophile, that I want to homosexualize children.”

The politician predicted that “this political violence that has settled in our country will pass,” but had no hopes that it would do so during Bolsonaro’s time in office.

“I have no positive expectations about this government. The level of violence against minorities has increased dramatically since [Bolsonaro] was elected,” he said.

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