news

Brazil's only openly gay congressman leaves job and country after death threats

Jean Wyllys was set to start a third term this February but has left his position

2019-01-25

Words: Steve Brown

Brazil’s only openly gay congressman has left his job and country after receiving death threats.

Jean Wyllys – who was a close friend of the gay Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco who was shot and killed in March - was re-elected in October and was set to start a third term this February.

However, over the last year, Wyllys had received a growing number of threats and in an interview this week, he said he was out of the country and had no plans to return to Brazil.

Although Brazil recently elected homophobic, right-wing Jair Bolsonaro as their president – despite a history of homophobic comments – Wyllys revealed his decision to leave was not due to the new president.

He insisted that it is due to the intensifying violence towards the LGBT+ community following the heated election campaign last year.

The former congressman told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper: “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?”

Wyllys – who found national fame after winning Brazil’s version of Big Brother - also said that the former Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica advised him to take the death threats seriously and said: “He told me, ‘Take care, man. Martyrs are not heroes’.

“And he’s right. I don’t want to sacrifice myself.”

In a tweet on Thursday (January 24), Wyllys said: “Preserving threatened life is also a strategy of fighting for better days. We did a lot 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 and all of you, with all my heart. Axé!”