On Sunday, Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva returned to the presidency, the culmination of a public career that began as a leftist activist, involved eight years in high office, two more in prison on corruption charges, and a hard-fought campaign against a right-wing incumbent.
“Under the winds of redemocratization, we used to say, ‘Dictatorship never again,’” he told a massive crowd in the Brazilian capital of Brasília. “Today, after the terrible challenge we’ve overcome, we must say, ‘Democracy forever.’”
Meanwhile, the day before, the man who traditionally would’ve passed Lula the presidential sash, outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro, was spotted eating at a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant in Florida, after leaving the country and refusing to fully concede the election.
The contrasting fates of Brazil’s two most recent leaders instantly inspired a flood of commentary and memes on social media.
One commenter turned the scene into a rap album cover.
Made a quick album cover on my phone pic.twitter.com/eMegKvWnY3
— Brett "Solidarity 2022" Banditelli (@banditelli) January 2, 2023
Another, journalist Pablo Manríquez, rendered a full-on oil painting of the strange tableau.
— Pablo Manríquez (@PabloReports) January 3, 2023
And of course there were the inevitable jokes that Mr Bolnosaro, who is living temporarily in the holiday home of Jose Aldo, an MMA fighter and political supporter, is now the latest bizarre version of the “Florida man” trope.
The former right-wing president was spotted around the Orlando area over the weekend, casually dressed and greeting supporters.
His trip to America may be about more than just photo ops and fried chicken though.
Much like his former ally Donald Trump, Mr Bolsonaro left office under a cloud of election denialism, investigations and accusations of mismanaging the Covid pandemic. Further, like Mr Trump, Mr Bolsonaro now lacks the immunities of official office.
The former president is facing potential probes from the Brazilian Senate about the pandemic, another probe for allegedly leaking a classified police corruption investigation into his sons, and a third potential investigation from an electoral court for allegedly abusing power and casting doubt on the Brazilian election system during the campaign against Lula.
The move could also help Mr Bolsonaro continue to cultivate ties with the US right, which already holds a version of the influential CPAC conference in Brazil.
His Orlando stay also puts him less than three hours away from Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which is a popular meeting group for right-wing politicos.