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Brazil’s Only LGBTQ Congressmember Flees Amid Threats

Jean Wyllus said his safety has been in jeopardy since last year

Jean Wyllys, an out gay congressmember in Brazil who was forced to resign and flee the country due to threats, speaks at an event in 2017.
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The only out gay member of Brazil’s parliament has resigned and fled the country after he was bombarded by threats throughout the last year amid a rocky political climate in the South American nation.

Jean Wyllys, who was just re-elected to a third term three months ago, said in an interview with local newspaper Folha De S. Paulo that the threats against him coincided with the intense election campaign of 2018, which saw the rise of Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonario.

The president claimed in an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday that he has “nothing against gays” and that he has “a lot of gay friends.” But he has long opposed LGBTQ rights and made that clear immediately in shaping his administration when he removed LGBTQ issues from consideration under the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights.

Wyllys, who rose to fame through his role on Brazil’s edition of the television show “Big Brother,” has sparred politically with Bolsonaro and spit on him during a 2016 parliamentary vote on the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff.

Wyllys indicated in a tweet on Thursday that remaining in Brazil would be far too risky for him, but offered hope that “we will do much more when new times come.”

“Preserving a threatened life is also a strategy to fight for better days,” he said. “We did a lot for the common good.”

Wyllys had been under heavy security since a lesbian councilmember from Rio de Janeiro, Marielle Franco, was murdered last March. According to reporting from The Intercept and O Globo newspaper, a suspect in Franco’s case has ties to Bolsonaro, but it is not immediately clear whether the threats against Wyllus to her murder.

A spokesperson for OutRight Action International, a global organization that addresses human rights violations against LGBTQ folks, could not immediately be reached on Thursday afternoon.

Rio City Councilmember David Miranda, a progressive politician who is the husband of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, has replaced Wyllys. Miranda assisted Greenwald and former CIA employee Edward Snowden in leaking US National Security Agency documents in 2013, which prompted the British government to detain him for nine hours, during which time documents were seized.

In a tweet on Thursday, Miranda said, “Our banners will be defended with love and commitment” and that his dream is to have a “fairer, less intolerant society. No government will shut our voices.”

Miranda also posted a family photo with Greenwald and their two children.

“Family is where you feel loved, welcomed, and respected,” he wrote in a translated version of another tweet, which was posted in Portuguese. “I appreciate the affection and pledge to defend our ideals. For a world more tolerant, just, and with more love for others. See you in Brazil.”

Updated 1:44 pm, January 25, 2019
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