The article "Puerto Rico Statehood Movement Gains" {front page, Dec. 27} shows how the leadership of the Puerto Rican statehood movement uses lies and distortions to gather support among the Puerto Rican people.

As a Puerto Rican, I know that statehood leaders sell statehood to the Puerto Rican electorate with claims that federal funds will flood the island if it becomes a state. These claims do not mention that Puerto Rico is already entitled to full benefits in three of the six major federal welfare programs. Increased amounts in the remaining three programs will do little to offset a second reality proponents of statehood deliberately ignore -- the elimination under statehood of tax incentives for foreign investment.

Puerto Rico combines federal and local tax incentives to lure American and foreign capital to the island. Jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors, the two main sources of employment in Puerto Rico besides the government, are rooted in these incentives. Statehood, as a recent Congressional Budget Office study pointed out, would result in the elimination of such incentives and provoke massive social and economic disruption.

Statehood leaders coat their allure with promises that Puerto Ricans will not have to give up the Spanish language if statehood arrives. This promise ignores the growth of a movement in this country to declare English the official language at both the state and national levels. Before 1983, for example, only four states had declared English their official language. Since then, another 14 states have enacted official English laws. The goal of this English supremacy movement is to amend the Constitution to establish English as the official language in the United States. Its leaders are adamant that Puerto Ricans must accept English as their language as a condition of statehood.

In essence, the statehood movement asks Puerto Ricans to trade their jobs for welfare benefits with the illusion that Puerto Rico's culture, language and heritage will continue unscathed. A movement that relies on such tactics to achieve its goals deserves nothing but contempt from Puerto Ricans and North Americans alike.

HIRAM E. PUIG-LUGO Washington

The Post's article cited the increase in welfare benefits Puerto Rico would get as a state as the primary motive for Puerto Ricans' preference for statehood. The article stated that "it is the financial argument for statehood that thousands of people {in Puerto Rico} find compelling. Many would suddenly get between $300 and $400 a month more in federal welfare benefits under statehood, which would automatically remove many of the current limits Congress has imposed on welfare programs on the island."

This assertion is flatly wrong. A poll conducted in Puerto Rico last summer, by Dr. Frank I. Luntz & Associates and sponsored by El Mundo newspaper and Channel 40 of Puerto Rico, proves the point. Puerto Ricans were asked to rank seven issues related to the referendum in order of importance to them. "More assistance from the federal government" ranked last. The issue that ranked first had to do with which status "would provide more employment opportunities." The right to vote for president and Congress ranked a close second.

The Post's article is one of several that have cited an increase in financial aid as the main reason Puerto Ricans prefer statehood. The value Puerto Ricans attach to the attainment of greater job opportunities has been glossed over or missed altogether.

Puerto Ricans are the poorest minority in the United States. Many have taken this to mean that we do not have a strong work ethic. The poll findings suggest that to conclude that Puerto Ricans are the poorest group in the United States because they are "lazy" is simplistic and unfair. Other groups are more successful at least partly because they are not affected by the same complex interaction of historical, social, political and economic factors in which Puerto Ricans find themselves embedded.

The poll findings also underscore the importance we attribute to ending our 500 years as a colony, first of Spain and, since 1898, of the United States. Ours is not simply a wish to improve our economic situation. We want statehood so that we can have a say in the composition of the federal government and so that we will be treated as equals in this country.

Equality is our right as Americans. Statehood is something we deserve.

GILBERTO PAGAN President for the State of New Jersey National Committee for Puerto Rican Statehood Colonia, N.J.