She is the daughter of former military dictator and FRG founder Efraín Ríos Montt, the leader of the three-man junta that came to power by military coup in 1982. As one of his staunch supporters she is a controversial figure both at home and abroad.
She is sometimes referred to as Zury Ríos Sosa, in accordance with traditional naming conventions in the Spanish-speaking world. Although her current husband, U.S. Congressman Jerry Weller, introduced her to the United States under this combined parental surname, she is nowadays best known in her home country as Zury Ríos Montt, using her father's double surname; on her personal web page she styles herself Ríos-Montt de Weller.
Zury Ríos Montt was born in January 1968, the third child of Efraín Ríos Montt and María Teresa Sosa Ávila. Her brothers, Enrique and Homero, both followed their father's military footsteps and enlisted in the armed forces: Homero, a military doctor, was killed by guerrillas in 1982, while rescuing wounded army soldiers and attempting to put them aboard an army helicopter that was brought down by rebel weapons fire in El Petén; Enrique was chief of the Army General Staff before resigning his commission in September 2003 when charged with having embezzled Q30 million (€3.25m/US$3.75m). When she was 10 years old, her father renounced Catholicism and became an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Church of the Word.
Zury Ríos studied at schools in Guatemala and Spain, where her father was assigned as military attaché following the 1974 presidential election, a process tainted by accusations of electoral fraud in which he had been a candidate. She graduated magna cum laude in political and social science from Francisco Marroquín University. Her first job (1988-1989) was as a lecturer in social and economic studies at the Escuela Cristiana Verbo in Guatemala City and she has also worked as a primary school teacher.
She has been married four times. Prior to her current union, she was married to Jeovanny Chávez, deputy José García Bravatti, and businessman Roberto López Villatoro. During her marriage to López Villatoro, she was also known as Ríos de López.
On 20 November 2004, at a ceremony held in General Ríos Montt's compound near Antigua Guatemala, and with the general presiding at the ceremony, she married U.S. Congressman Jerry Weller (R-Illinois). Following the wedding, she stated that although she planned to live in the United States with her husband, she would continue serving in the Guatemalan legislature; a lawyer for Weller told the U.S. House Ethics Committee that she did not plan on becoming a U.S. citizen.
In March 2006 the Wellers announced that she was pregnant, and a daughter, Marizú Catherine, was born on 17 August 2006 in a Guatemala City hospital. The child holds dual U.S. and Guatemalan nationality.
In 1989 Zury Ríos joined the public relations department of the then newly created Guatemalan Republican Front in preparation for the 1990 presidential election. In that election, the FRG won 10 seats in Congress. However, her father was barred from running for president due to a provision in the constitution barring coup leaders from running. Following the election, Zury Ríos worked as an administrative assistant to the FRG congressional bloc and as private secretary to the Speaker of Congress.
In 1996 she was elected to Congress as a national list deputy. In 1998 she was elected to the FRG's executive committee and political council.
In 1999 she was re-elected to Congress, again from her party's national list. During the 2000–04 legislative session, she served as one of the two deputy speakers and on the congressional foreign relations committee. She was elected to a third term in the 2003 general election, receiving the second highest number of votes on the national electoral lists. During the 2004–08 legislature, she served as vice chair of the foreign relations committee and on the health, sport, social welfare, and ethics committees. Much of her congressional work has focused on reproductive health issues, the HIV-AIDS situation, and combating tobacco use; some of her supporters see her as a potential future foreign minister or even president of the Republic.
In 2003, prior to the election, Zury Ríos was accused of being one of the organizers of jueves negro ("Black Thursday"). In mid-2003, the FRG was again trying to get General Ríos Montt on to the presidential ticket, arguing that applying the constitutional ban preventing former coup leaders from seeking the presidency should not apply to him in accordance with the principle of nonretroactive application of the law: his 1982 coup d'état preceded the enactment of the 1985 Constitution. After a series of court decisions ruling alternately that he could or could not run, culminating with a 21 July 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court suspending his candidacy, on Thursday, 24 July 2003 FRG officials and supporters led a mass demonstration in Guatemala City to protest his disqualification. The demonstration degenerated into a bloody riot that left one man dead (journalist Héctor Fernando Ramírez); it was, however, perceived as having been successful in getting General Ríos Montt's name on the presidential ballot when, a week later, the Constitutional Court overturned the Supreme Court's ban.
Although General Ríos Montt ultimately lost the November 2003 election, he enjoyed his daughter's full support. Zury Ríos accompanied her father on his campaign trail, generally introducing him, in highly favorable terms, before he addressed his rallies. She was quoted in the press as saying, "my father is my inspiration."