Ask more questions, get more answers #IVLP

Rafael Minatogawa is a 25-year-old economist from Brazil who works as chief of staff for congressman Kim Kataguiri (also aged 25). It is often difficult these days to attract young people to politics. So, how come Rafael ended up in this place?

What made you start this job? What inspired you to do this?
As I was finishing my degree in economics, Brazil was getting into economic crisis. It was very hard to find a job in what I do. Most of my friends went to different jobs like consultants in big corporations – KPMG or EY. I didn’t want to work for companies like that. At that time, Kim Kataguiri, whom I had known for a long time, decided to run for Congress. We were both just over 20 years old back then. He invited me to be a part of his campaign. We have similar views on the major political and economic issues. I trust him, he trusts me – and that’s very important in this kind of job. Back then, I was studying in Canada, but planned to return soon. We started negotiations and found a solution. I helped him in his campaign.

I think you did a great job. He was the fourth most voted, despite his young age!
Actually, we didn’t expect this. We knew that he could win somehow, but we didn’t expect this great result in the election.

Rafael (in the back) with Congressman Kim in the front and with Luciano and Warlen

It is very encouraging for young people, I think. Kim Kataguiri is also on YouTube, with over 700 thousand subscribers.
We had started to work with social media before the election.

It’s the best way to reach young voters.
Yes, that’s the idea. We used to work very hard on Facebook, but then Facebook started to change, so we went to Instagram. Now we’re working hard on YouTube, and we have great numbers. The main purpose is to communicate and somehow help people understand what happens in Congress because sometimes it’s not easy to understand how politics work.

What is most important for you? What makes you wake up every day?
I believe that I could do a lot of different things, but here I have the opportunity to really make a difference. To really apply what I’ve learned in college and at university, debate different important things like tax reform and have input, influence over it. Right now, the tax system in Brazil is very unfair. Poor people pay more tax than the rich. We need to change that. This kind of stuff is what makes me wake up every morning and think: “I can make a change. I can really make a change today”.

At a diplomatic mission in Japan

You also took part in the International Visitors Leadership Program. What did you learn from this experience?
In my job I meet a lot of people. One of them was the Ambassador of the United States, and he saw that I’m young, and I work hard, so he invited me to take part in this program. It was a very important experience for me because I met a lot of people who do different things. Sometimes we’re so much stuck in our own country, like we were in a bubble; you don’t see what’s happening out there. It’s hard to understand what’s happening in Germany, in Europe, in the United States. You get yourself thinking: am I doing this right? Are other people doing the same thing? Am I going the wrong path? When we spoke during the IVLP with specialists from the US, sometimes they said “This thing you’re doing right, but here you can improve.” That was very important for me. I’m just thankful I could be a part of it.

Do you have any advice for the young people who are still looking for their path?
Read. Read a lot. We spend a lot of time on social media nowadays, and I guess what brought me here was that I’ve always been very curious. I would ask questions and try to understand how everything works. I believe the most important thing is to never get enough and try to improve yourself, study, ask more questions and get more answers. That’s my advice.

Rafael in a meeting with Luis Henrique Mandetta, former Minister of Health, who was fired after arguing against president Bolsonaro about how he was handling the pandemics

What is your dream in your political career?
To have a fairer country. To make Brazil better, fairer, with more opportunities. That’s my dream.

Rafael Minatogawa, born in 1996, is an economist from Brazil, who works as chief of staff for congressman Kim Kataguiri (also born in 1996). He is a member and founder of a political movement Free Brazil Movement. One of their aims is to engage young people in politics. They also lobby for a fairer tax reform. Rafael was a participant of the International Visitors Leadership Program in 2020.

Photos: Private archive of Rafael Minatogawa