SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted to be here, and thank you, Consul General. Thank you for your long service, thank you for your service here in Brazil and particularly in Rio, although, it’s not exactly a hardship, folks. (Laughter.) But we appreciate greatly your dedication, and I am delighted to be here to thank all of you because, as Consul General Hearne said, this is such a consequential relationship between the United States and Brazil. And there is unprecedented growth in every way between our two countries – between our governments, our private sectors, our civil societies, and most of all, between our people.
And in the past year, you’ve more than doubled personnel. This has become the second most visited post in the Western Hemisphere, and I think that will only grow in the future. And this team that is here and everyone who scattered around Rio taking care of all the rest of us has really been first rate. You’ve established an incredible record in the past year. The long hours that you’re putting in are really paying off, and you have really stepped up and handled high-level visits, including the very successful visit of President Obama and half the cabinet, which has been here as well. And I know that both planning and implementing these visits is not easy. So let me thank you for all the visits, including this one, for Rio+20, and all that are yet to come, because it will only continue at this pace.
I want to thank Ambassador Tom Shannon, who has done such a superb job leading our efforts here in Brazil. He’s actually holding those flowers because we – (laughter) – want to give them to the consulate so that you can display them, because I can’t take them back on the plane, and they are so, so beautiful.
I also want to really congratulate you on how you have handled the visa application surge. Tom was bragging on you last night as I drove in with him from the airport. You have processed more than twice the applications in the first seven months of this year than in the same period last year. That translates directly into more Brazilians visiting, studying in, and doing business in America. It means closer understanding and more jobs, greater opportunities for both our countries.
And I want to take a moment to recognize the local staff. How many Brazilians are here? Ah. Well, thank you so much, and thank you for what you do. You are the backbone of this mission. With all due respect to the ambassador, the consul general, and myself, we all come and go as do political officers, econ officers, and everyone else. But the local teams are the continuity. You are the brains and the heart of our ongoing mission. And I know that the pay freeze has made things tough for a number of you, especially with the rising cost of living in Rio, and I want you to know that we are aware of it, and we’re going to try to do what we can about it. I can’t make any promises, but I want you to know that I am very grateful and will do my best to try to provide some recognition of what you are doing.
It’s also nice to see families here, and I thank you for that. So in general, keep up the great work. First of all, it’s paying off, and secondly, it’s a real model relationship going forward. There isn’t any doubt to that, and we couldn’t do what we try to do out of Washington without all of you here. So thank you, and Godspeed as we continue this important work.
And let me start there, and I’ll shake some hands. Thank you all. (Applause.)