Mexican businessman and activist Alejandro Martí, best remembered for challenging Mexico’s political class with the phrase “If you can’t, resign,” has died at the age of 73.
Martí founded the Deportes Martí chain of sports stores, which grew out of a sports stand he ran at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City while still only a teenager.
The chain was wildly successful, and in the 1990s, Martí expanded his footprint in the fitness industry, launching new sports clubs and gym chains known as Fitness Center and Sport City.
He only became a well-known public figure, however, after the kidnapping of his son Fernando in 2008. The 14-year-old boy was abducted on his way to school and held for ransom for nearly two months. Despite the Martí family agreeing to pay over 5 million pesos for his release, he was found dead in the Coyoacán delegation of Mexico City on July 31 of that year.
The tragedy pushed Martí to form the nongovernmental organization México SOS, which advocates for better public security. A month after his son’s body was found, Martí was invited to speak to the National Council of Public Security, where he delivered a blistering rebuke that became a symbol of the struggle for a safer Mexico.
“Gentlemen, if you think the bar is too high, if you think it is impossible, if you can’t, resign. But do not continue to occupy government offices, do not continue to receive a salary for doing nothing,” he said.
Hace 12 años @Alejandro_Marti tuvo la grandeza de respaldarnos en la aventura de poner Presunto Culpable en las pantallas de cine. Nos ayudó así a rescatar una historia de injusticia perdida en el mar de la impunidad. ¿Qué será de México sin Alejandro? pic.twitter.com/dj6wtiPa4m
— Presunto Culpable 😷 🇺🇦 (@PresuntoC) July 25, 2023
The eulogies for Martí came from far and wide, a testament to his impact. Activist lawyer and filmmaker Roberto Hernández paid tribute to Martí for using his visibility to support Hernández’s “Presumed Guilty,” a controversial 2008 documentary exposing contradictions in Mexico’s judicial system.
Although no information has been released about Martí’s cause of death, numerous public figures have expressed their admiration and condolences on social media.
José Antonio Meade, former presidential candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2018, described Martí as a “brave and committed man” who “turned his pain into a cause and demand for a better country.”
Felipe Calderón, who was president at the time of Fernando Martí’s murder, also hailed Martí as an “exemplary Mexican, enormously committed to Mexico.”