The images, some of them in sepia tones, were set to so-called narco hip-hop music and showed hundreds of villagers lining up in the rain to get bottled water and coffee brought in by Gulf Cartel members who "have heart," according to one video caption.

The crime syndicates are savage, but not stupid.

"As crude of actors as they are, they have a communications strategy," said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin America Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. Part of that strategy is maintaining a bigger-than-life image of high living and heavy bling in a country that is by and large very poor.

Promoting terror also figures heavily.

"Intimidation goes with the bravado," Olson said. "One way you intimidate is to show a bunch of bodies with "Z" for Zetas carved in their torsos … It shows your power."

Their brazen posts also leave behind a way to diminish their power, Olsen said.

But that’s unlikely to happen, he said.

Law enforcement and public officials would have to go deeper and farther than their current containment methods, which rely heavily on sending federal police and soldiers into cartel strongholds.

"You have to have a crime-fighting strategy," Olson said. “You have to do more than drive around in trucks with big guns."

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