Gay Brazilian lawmaker leaves job, country over death threats

Brasília (AFP) –


Brazil's only openly gay lawmaker announced Thursday he would not serve his third term and had 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.

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 leftist former president Dilma Rousseff's April 2016 impeachment hearings, Wyllys spat in Bolsonaro's face after Bolsonaro 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.