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Out Brazilian Politician Quits Amid Death Threats

Jean Wyllys
Via Twitter

Jean Wyllys, a vocal critic of the nation's new antigay president, fled the country after a fellow LGBTQ official's murder.

Jean Wyllys, an out Brazilian lawmaker who recently won a third term, said he will not return to the country amid threats on his life.

"I do not want to sacrifice myself," he told Brazilian news outlet Folhe de S. Paolo in Portuguese.

He later wrote on Twitter in his native language: "Preserving life threatened is also a strategy of fighting 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 will all my heart."

He closed the tweet with the word "Axe!", a call for keeping up the energy of a movement, along with an emoticon of a raised fist.

Wyllys made history in 2010 as the first openly gay politician elected to the Brazilian parliament. He penned a column for The Advocate in 2012 when he brought forward marriage equality legislation.

But Wyllys has lived under police escort since the murder of Marielle Franco, a lesbian political and political ally.

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Wyllys told the newspaper he'd received advice from former Uruguay President Pepe Mujica to be careful. "Take care, the martyrs are not heroes," Mujica told him.

President Juliana Medeiros has already picked a replacement for Wyllys in the Legislature.

Wyllys has a long history of criticizing new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, according to The New York Times. He said Bolsonaro was "a president who always vilified me, who always openly insulted me, who was always homophobic with me."

But more than political differences, Wyllys told the Brazilian news outlet he became terrified when investigators connected Franco's death to a man who had relatives connected to Bolsonaro.

"I'm terrified that the president's son hired the hit man's wife and mother in his office," he said.

The revelation prompted Wyllys to leave the country on vacation, and he has no plans to immediately return. Instead, Rio De Janeiro Councilman David Miranda, a fellow member of Wyllys Socialist and Freedom Party, will fill the seat.

Carlos Bolsonaro, the president's son and a councilman in Brazil, said of Wyllyson Twitter, "Go with God and be happy."

Miranda on social media suggested he, too, would fight President Bolsonaro's agenda. "Respect Jean, Jair, and hold your excitement. There is one LGBT but another comes in."

In his interview with the Brazilian newspaper Wyllys said beyond just the death threats, he tired of living under constant police protection. He received death threats before Franco's death but never took them seriously. Now, he cannot go outside in the country without an escort.

He described his feelings when during the recent blood moon eclipse, he could not go outside to see it because he did not have an escort at the ready. He also worried about the seirousness of protection. A vocal critic of the state police, he said federal law enforcement for an extended period of time denied there were homophobia-motivated attacks on LGBT people in Brazil even after four murders that seemed clearly motivated by hate.

"In one week, three lesbian couples were attacked. One of them was executed," he said. "Violence against LGBTs in Brazil has grown frighteningly."

Wyllys said a local judge recently suggested in Facebook that he should be executed but that he wouldn't be worth the bullet. "How can I imagine that I will be safe in this state that I represent?" he told the newspaper.

Wyllys also said he'd grown weary of attacks on his reputation. Homophobic groups in Brazil have dogged the lawmaker for years, and a fellow lawmaker, Alexander Frota, even was ordered by courts to pay restitution to Wyllys after posting a picture online with the message all gays were pedophiles.

"The sentence imposed... does not repair the damage he produced by attributing to me a compliment of pedophilia," Wyllys said.

Wyllys said he would pursue a doctorate and look to a future in academia, though he did not share where he plans to live.

"When I think it's time, I come back, not necessarily to this place of parliamentary political representation, but to the defense of the cause," he said. "This I will never fail to do."

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