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Gay Brazilian lawmaker quits job, says he will leave country over death threats

Jean Wyllys, Brazil's only openly gay lawmaker, announces he will not serve third term, as threats against his life rise.

Friday 25 January, 2019
In this file picture taken on April 2, 2018, Jean Wyllys, Rio de Janeiro federal deputy for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), speaks during a rally of at Circo Voador in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this file picture taken on April 2, 2018, Jean Wyllys, Rio de Janeiro federal deputy for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), speaks during a rally of at Circo Voador in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Foto:Mauro Pimentel/AFP

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Brazil's only openly gay lawmaker has announced he would not serve his third term as an elected deputy and has fled the country because of mounting death threats since the election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

"To preserve threatened life is also a strategy to fight for better days," Jean Wyllys, 44, is a member of the left-wing Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), wrote on Twitter.

"We did a lot for the common good. And we will do a lot more when new times arrive," added the deputy, a forceful representative of the LGBT community.

While the Chamber of Deputies' press service said Wyllys had not formally resigned, his office told AFP he had decided to step down, and would stay "out of the country" for a period of time – without saying where he had gone.

Wyllys told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that Bolsonaro's October election in and of itself did not prompt his decision – but rather the "level of violence that increased after the election," highlighting intensifying attacks on members of the LGBT community.

Bolsonaro, a former Army general, enjoys strong support from ultra-conservative Christians. 

'Necessary measures'

In November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) asked Brazil to take "necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity" of Wyllys and his family.

Wyllys and Bolsonaro have long clashed in Congress: during former president Dilma Rousseff's controversial April 2016 impeachment hearings, Wyllys spat in Bolsonaro's face after outspoken politician dedicated his impeachment vote to a torturer from Brazil's military dictatorship.

Wyllys is one of 10 elected PSOL deputies – and will be replaced by David Miranda, who is also gay.

Their party is that of slain Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco, a high-profile lawmaker and black rights activist who was critical of police violence. Franco was shot dead last March along with her driver Anderson Gomes, in a case that has not yet been solved. Death squad militias are believed to have been behind the murders. 

Bolsonaro reacts

Bolsonaro reacted in a typically combative way to the news, highlighting in a tweet posted Friday that the attacker who stabbed him during a campaign rally back in September was linked to the PSOL.

"Some points of Adélio Bispo, an ex-member of PSOL, the criminal who tried to kill Jair Bolsonaro," the head of state's posted shortly after his return from Davos in Switzerland, where he participated in the World Economic Forum.

The post included eight bullet points detailed the attacker, Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, and his links to the PSOL and alleged accomplices.

After the message, a hashtag #InvestigarJeanWyllys ("Investigate Jean Wyllys") became the trending topic of the social network, thanks to Bolsonaro's supporters.

- AFP

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