Life in the VRAEM, Peru's 'cocaine valley'

The Peruvian region VRAEM, the valley of the three rivers Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro, has long been stigmatised by the outside world as a "lawless" region overrun by "narco-terrorists". It's a description that holds some truth: about 70 percent of Peru's cocaine is produced in the region and it is home to the last remnants of the Shining Path, a Maoist armed group that fought a war against the state between 1980 and 2000. Today an estimated 300 fighters remain in the region. 

But for the more than 400,000 people living in the VRAEM, their story is predominantly one of struggling for survival, with basic needs such as education, energy, asphalted roads and clean water often unfulfilled. Here, the economic potential of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, is unrivalled and can offer some respite in the face of poverty. A soldier who grew up in the region, a local radio presenter and a leader of the coca movement give us their take on living in the VRAEM.