Political scientist Jorge Leon of the Ecuador campus of FLACSO university called Correa's move a political masterstroke "because it puts the bankers in a terrible situation," making them scapegoats.
Correa, whose only previous job in government was as finance minister, has alienated bankers before, both at home and abroad. Under his watch in 2009, Ecuador defaulted on nearly $3.9 billion in external debt.
He has long blamed bankers for a financial crisis at the end of the 1990s that provoked a bloodless 2000 coup. The country was nearly at the point of hyperinflation and half of the country's 42 banks collapsed amid accusations of malfeasance.
The industry's profits have climbed steadily since Correa won election, from $239 million in 2006 to $393 million last year, even as banks were forced to reduce fees for credit cards, repatriate funds held abroad and purchase public debt.
Ecuador's private bankers association complains that it already pays the state about $309 million annually in taxes and other fees that eat up nearly 80 percent of its profits.
The director of the national revenue service, Carlos Marx Carrasco, contested that figure, claiming the banks only paid $170 million in taxes.
Correa's populist stand has won supporters such as Gilberto Albornoz, a 43-year-old Quito attorney.
"It's good that the bankers help the poorest," he said. "They turn themselves into millionaires with the money of the people and they should contribute to the country and the poorest."
But Carolina Holguin, a 32-year-old insurance company worker, said she worries the taxes will wind up hurting consumers.
"The money in the banks doesn't belong to the bankers. It belongs to us, the depositors, simple people, small, medium and big companies. Now we're going to have to think a lot before putting our savings in banks because the government is desperate to get more financial resources to spend."
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.
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