What The Post calls "toying with Puerto Rico" and "interfering in the sensitive internal politics of Puerto Rico" {editorial, Aug. 7}, I call "the democratization of Puerto Rico."

The 3.2 million American citizens of Puerto Rico do not have the right to vote for the president. And as The Post correctly points out, there is an "anomaly" in the presidential selection process. The "anomaly" -- that Puerto Ricans participate in the candidate selection process -- is what we call the important participation that Puerto Ricans, and all the mainland-born residing on the island, have in the national political process. It is our only and very limited national political power.

S.1182, which was introduced by Sen. Bob Dole, was cosponsored by Sens. Alfonse D'Amato, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Paul Simon and Spark Matsunaga. Sen. Simon, an avid supporter of Puerto Rico statehood for over a decade, said on the floor June 2: "This important resolution would allow Puerto Ricans to decide their political future for themselves." He added, "Only then will Puerto Ricans resolve their political limbo and receive all the rights and responsibilities which they deserve as American citizens."

In the House of Representatives, H.R. 2849 was introduced by Reps. Robert Lagomarsino, Ike Skelton, Austin Murphy and Tom Coleman. This bill responds to more than a quarter of a million petitions for statehood that have been filed in Congress. The bill defines a detailed process of consultation and establishes a procedure to allow for a referendum on statehood.

Neither of these bipartisan bills enacts statehood. Both ask the American citizens of Puerto Rico to express themselves.

A status referendum has not been held in Puerto Rico since 1967. Seventy percent of today's eligible voters did not participate in that referendum because most of them were not of legal age at the time. Since then, the pro-statehood movement has become significantly stronger, particularly among the young, modern and better educated, who see statehood as an important political instrument to attain greater economic self-sufficiency and full political equality.

These two bills respond to the most basic democratic principle, the right of American citizens to petition Congress, and propose a basic democratic process, calling for an electoral referendum so that the people may speak for themselves.

BALTASAR CORRADA Mayor of San Juan Former Resident Commissioner to Congress San Juan, Puerto Rico

I take exception to The Post's editorial suggestion that politicians are "toying with Puerto Rico."

On June 30, I introduced legislation (H.R. 2849) with two Democrats and one other Republican, providing for a referendum in Puerto Rico on the question of statehood. The bill was drafted in response to some 250,000 individually signed petitions from citizens of Puerto Rico. The question to be posed is whether Puerto Rico should be incorporated into the Union as a state with the people of Puerto Rico and Congress mutually agreeing to the terms of admission.

If the referendum is approved, a joint task force would be established, half appointed by the president and half nominated by the governor of Puerto Rico, to determine the terms of admission. A second referendum would also be held, and if both the people of Puerto Rico and Congress agree to the terms, Puerto Rico would become a state.

It is important to point out that the petitions are the result of a grass-roots effort by Puerto Ricans in Civic Action, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of Puerto Ricans led by Dr. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, a physician and mother of five who has worked without pay on this issue.

The question of the political status of Puerto Rico is the issue of the day (and yesterday and tomorrow) in Puerto Rico. In light of The Post's statement that the status issue is "the central focus of Puerto Rico's politics and public life," it is not surprising that presidential candidates express their views on the subject. ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO U.S. Representative (R-Calif.) Washington