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The Southland Cartel is an old organization, dating back to the initial colonization of the Caribbeans. As the influx of wealth spread into the area, as well as modern economic thought, members of both native and pioneer society saw ways to make a bit more from each transaction.
The Cartel has operated many businesses at ports throughout the new world for centuries, never forgetting their humble beginnings. Never growing large enough to be a ripe target, the Cartel focuses instead on making money from the movement of goods, never presenting themselves to a possible predator for too long. If an unusual item arrives at a port of call where it couldn't possibly have gotten to, the smuggler in question probably belonged to the Cartel.
A vast majority of the members of the Cartel practice the vodoun religion, and make heavy use of its philosophies in their everyday business decisions. The senior members of the organization tend to be vodoun priests as well, leading their supporters religiously as well.